April 21, 2011

Virginia First Lady launches Serving Our Service Member Families” website

By Cotton Puryear
Virginia Dept. of Military Affairs

SANDSTON, Va. — Virginia First Lady Maureen McDonnell launched the “Serving Our Service Member Families” website April 19 which will provide an easy to use on-line connection between the families of deployed Virginia Guard Soldiers and Airmen, as well as other branches of service, and their fellow Virginians, businesses, places of worship, and civic and volunteer organizations to help meet their needs while a loved one is away serving commonwealth and country.  Through the website, www.SOS.virginia.gov, families can log on and find help in a secure format for various needs, and businesses can register to give their support by offering their company and services at a special rate for the families and community groups can register and list themselves as resources to the families.  The website is a part of the First Lady’s ongoing “Serving Our Service Member Families” (SOS) initiative which she launched shortly after her husband took office.

“The Virginia National Guard has mobilized more than 12,000 Soldiers and Airmen since 9/11, many of our personnel have served on federal active duty multiple times and more than 1,700 will be on duty in the next year,” said Maj. Gen. Daniel, E. Long, Jr., the Adjutant General of Virginia.  “Their service in defense of the ideals of freedom places a large burden on their families, and we need to do everything we can to support those families while their loved ones are away.”

Long explained that the Virginia Guard, along with the other active and reserve military services, have extensive programs in place to support families, but said this web site is going to be an important tool that will connect families in need with local organizations that can provide valuable assistance. “We all know the Governor and First Lady have focused their attention on the needs of military families, and we are very excited to work with them to make this program a success and increase the support we offer to our families,” Long said.

McDonnell said that last year’s launch of the “Serving Our Service Member Families” program was to encourage all Virginians to reach out and help the families of the deployed with the everyday tasks that are often take for granted.

“SOS is, for me, the very essence of what it means to be a good neighbor,” she said. “As a military daughter, wife, and mother, I know the challenges military families face first-hand, and how special it is to have love and support when a spouse is deployed.  It is our hope that citizens, businesses, places of worship, and community organizations will go to the website to sign-up and get involved by serving the families who are repeatedly enduring tremendous burdens and sacrifices for our state and nation.”

Guard families often have different needs than active duty families because they may not be located near a large military facility, Long said. In some cases, the family of a Guard Soldier or Airmen could be the only one in their community with a loved one deployed, so this web site will be of real value for helping them find assistance in their local community.

Long said the Virginia Guard will be integrating this effort into our existing family readiness network. The Virginia Guard operates Family Assistance Centers in Norfolk, Powhatan, Winchester, Staunton, Martinsville, and Abingdon that provide assistance to all branches of the military, and he said this web site will be integrated into the services they offer.

“The National Guard has been taking care of Soldiers, Airmen and their families for years the through various family readiness programs and services, especially during the highest operational tempo in recent history,” Long said. “The SOS website is an excellent tool to link communities, businesses and volunteers to service members and their families and also compliments many of the existing programs and services in place.”

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