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Military families to get help dealing with stress of deployment

Families of area National Guard and Reserve troops on active duty will get help battling anxiety, grief, anger and depression in a series of meetings at Family Assistance Centers in North Dakota.

Families of area National Guard and Reserve troops on active duty will get help battling anxiety, grief, anger and depression in a series of meetings at Family Assistance Centers in North Dakota.

The meetings, announced Monday at United Way of Cass-Clay in Fargo, will also teach families how to help returning troops deal with post-traumatic stress.

Ed Schmitz, coordinator of Operation Family Support, announced the initiative with Gov. John Hoeven, Maj. Gen. Michael Haugen, United Way and military support group representatives.

United Way of Cass-Clay is paying $2,200 for the project. It will be coordinated by the Mental Health Association in North Dakota, but is also open to military families in northwestern Minnesota.

"There are lots of families that are struggling and as the holidays get closer, it's going to get worse," said Jeanie Moor, family readiness adviser for the 142nd Engineer Combat Battalion.

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"Nothing could have prepared us for the emotional roller coaster our lives have become," she said, describing the problems parents and children have had since the 142nd was activated in February.

In addition to 635 North Dakota and Minnesota members of the 142nd in Iraq, there are 186 North Dakotans with the 957th Multi-Role Bridge Co. also in Iraq.

The first meeting will be from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. Saturday at the Fargo Armed Forces Reserve Center, 3920 31st St. N.W. The second meeting will be from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Sunday at the Grand Forks AFRC, 1501 48th St. S.

Meetings are also being held in Bismarck (7 to 9 p.m. Nov. 14, Raymond J. Bohn Armory), Minot (1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Nov. 15, Minot AFRC), and Devils Lake (1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Nov. 16, Camp Grafton).

Val Farmer from MeritCare Health Systems and Dr. Kit O'Neill of North Dakota State University are among the experts that will teach how to deal with the intense emotions of the separation, Schmitz said.

"The families that are here serve as well, and there's a lot of hardship" for them, too, Hoeven said.

A network of services will provide long-term help for those families, Hoeven said.

The current generation of soldiers will not be shunted aside like those from Vietnam, said Haugen, the adjutant for the North Dakota National Guard.

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He said the United States had 55,000 men killed in action in Vietnam, but another 200,000 died later from alcohol, drugs, suicide and post-traumatic stress.

"These are not throw-away soldiers," Haugen said. "They have been family" and we will take care of them.

"This is something that may be needed for the longer term" including possible future call-ups, he said. "It's an outstanding program. It's a wonderful first step."

Moor, whose husband Cory is a sergeant with the 142nd's Headquarters and Support Company, said the approaching holiday season -- the first apart for families since the call-up for the Iraq War -- will add more stress.

"I think the holidays will be tough," she said. "I think it's a time our families need to come together and stick together."

Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583

Helmut Schmidt is a reporter for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead's business news team. Readers can reach him by email at hschmidt@forumcomm.com, or by calling (701) 241-5583.
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