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We have a certain family difficulty, and I was trying to find a contact point for my niece. When we lived in Germany, many years ago, we Army wives would help one another. We would take up the slack together somehow when the men were not there or could not be there.

My niece and family are living overseas. She has not been there very long, just a couple months or so. She has not had a lot of time to build those invaluable Army wife friendships. Over a month ago, her 2-year-old son became very ill — first ear infections, then pneumonia. The child has been hospitalized (off post) for the last month and has been gravely ill. My niece is a qualified nurses’ aid, and she stays with the child 24/7 in the hospital. Her husband comes when he can to bring food, but is not always able to come every day.

She seems to have no Army wife support network, so I am greatly concerned for her. I do not know how to help her.

— Concerned Aunt

There is support available for military families, even for those who are new and haven’t had the opportunity to make friends or other connections. To tap into that support, your niece and husband need to ask for help.

• First, is her husband’s unit or supervisor aware of the problem and the need? Even if these individuals know about the child’s illness, they may not realize that help is needed or what kind of help. Most military units or unit spouses should have a system for taking care of their own in difficult situations.

• Have they contacted their chaplain? Chaplains can provide prayer, spiritual support and practical advice about where to find the physical support families need. Even if the family does not attend chapel, the chaplain assigned to their unit is their chaplain. Service groups at the chapel — I’m thinking particularly of women's groups, but there are others — are available to provide some help for those in need. The chaplain can provide contact information for these and other organizations.

• The Enlisted Spouses Association or Officers Spouses Club are also possibilities. At our last assignment, the joint spouses club had volunteers who regularly provided meals for members and nonmembers alike who were in need.

When they make these contacts, your niece and husband should ask specifically for the kind of help they need: someone to visit her at the hospital, someone to take food to her or provide an occasional meal for him when he is home alone. Possibly they would appreciate having someone pray for them and for their son. Practical help aside, everyone needs to know that someone cares.

Reaching out for help opens the door to the support that is available. Helpful people respond when they know what kind of help is needed. Otherwise, they just feel helpless, especially when the needy person is a stranger.

I hope your niece will not be a stranger in her community for long. For military families, the network of friends we create is the safety net beneath us when times are difficult.

If anyone has stories to tell or suggestions to offer about making connections in times of need, please share them on the Spouse Calls blog at http://blogs. stripes.com/blogs/spousecalls or send them to me at spousecalls@stripes.com.

Terri Barnes is a military spouse and mother of three. She lives and writes in Germany, where her husband is assigned to Ramstein AB. Send questions or comments to her at spousecalls@stripes.com.

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