Honoring our military families in the Coast Guard

Master Chief Sean McPhilamy  and Capt. Jeffrey Westling presents Jennifer Haleakala a certificate of completion during a Coast Guard ombudsman training course, Sept. 24, 2014, at Coast Guard Base Kodiak, Alaska. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Diana Honings.

Master Chief Petty Officer Sean McPhilamy and Capt. Jeffrey Westling presents Jennifer Haleakala a certificate of completion during a Coast Guard ombudsman training course, Sept. 24, 2014, at Coast Guard Base Kodiak, Alaska. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Diana Honings.

In a proclamation released by President Barack Obama, “The selflessness of our military families tells a story of unfailing duty and devotion. Through long deployments, difficult separations, and moves across the country and overseas, spouses and partners put their careers on hold and children take on extra responsibilities. With grace and resilience, families endure the absence of loved ones and shoulder the burdens of war. And when battle ends and our service members return home, their families support their transition and recovery.”

November is the Month of the Military Family in which we honor the families that support our troops. In the Coast Guard, a select few military spouses volunteer as ombudsmen to provide knowledge of work life services and referrals for specific services such as doctor referrals, schools, and education and employment opportunities. They are part of the command structure and are the liaisons between the command and Coast Guard families.

Jennifer Haleakala is Coast Guard Base Kodiak’s ombudsman and has accompanied her husband, Chief Petty Officer Frank Haleakala, for 16 years from Oregon to Michigan, Hawaii and California as well as several tours in Alaska. It wasn’t until the last couple of years that Haleakala started volunteering as ombudsman to help other military families acclimate to the lifestyle.

“I personally get the satisfaction of being able to help others,” said Haleakala. “It can be intimidating for some people to speak their voices in a setting such as town hall meetings; however that person needs a voice. I volunteer to be that voice. I believe it’s rewarding in knowing that you can help others.”

While acting as the voice between the Coast Guard families and the command, Haleakala is committed to ensuring that the people she represents are settled, often offering encouragement and comfort to those who have sacrificed so much to support their spouses in the military.

“I believe celebrating military families is important,” said Haleakala. “The active duty member signed the dotted line for this job and lifestyle. The spouse fell in love with that member and volunteered to give up the idea of living in a single place for longer than a tour of duty. A military family sacrifices so much for this country.”

Though the military honors military children, families and ombudsman on certain months throughout the year, the services of the National Military Family Association are available year-round including resources for child care, health care, spouse employment options and schools.

“It’s great that there is an Ombudsman Appreciation Day and Military Family Month; however, that shouldn’t be the only time to show appreciation to these people,” said Haleakala. “A thank you can go a long way in someone’s life.”

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