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'Empathy is more important than sympathy': MN military family on how to show support

On a day when people pause to remember military members deployed, Amanda says actions can help families experiencing loss or separation.

MINNEAPOLIS — Friday marks the start to the weekend, but one Minnesota mother of three, Amanda, reads the calendar differently.

She wears red on Fridays to show support for service members deployed.

“Today is RED Friday. I myself wear a red Friday shirt to remember everyone who is overseas who is not able to be with us this time of year including my husband, Luke,” she said.

RED is an acronym for remember everyone deployed. Her husband has been a member of the Army National guard for 16 years. He is on his third deployment.

“Everyday we mark off a day. Today is number 48 I think he's been gone.,” Amanda said. “As a mother, I am experiencing this deployment with children for the first time. That is a whole new game.”

Their Twin Cities home is now decorated with a deployment wall. It contains a family photo with Amanda, her husband and their three children. It also has a white mailbox attached to the wall.

“An actual mailbox that I hung on the wall so that the kids can stick letters and drawings to daddy in it,” she said. “It has two clocks showing the time here and the time where he is overseas. It has a map so the kids can understand visually how far away daddy is. Also, it has a 12-month calendar because my husband is on about a yearlong deployment right now.”

As she waits for her husband, Luke, and his unit to return home safely. 

Amanda is thinking about the families of the soldiers killed in training exercise involving a Black Hawk helicopter.

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“I feel for their families. It hits really close to home. This is the kind of thing that my husband’s unit does. They care for the helicopters. They ride in the helicopters. This could've happened to anyone of them,” she said. “These test flights happen all the time here in Minnesota with the Army National Guard.”

On a day when people pause to remember military members deployed, Amanda says actions can help families experiencing loss or separation.

“When you know or run into a family who has a deployed loved one, empathy is more important than sympathy,” she said. “Sitting with us in the feelings and trying to understand what we are going through is appreciated. Dropping off meals, shoveling the driveway, volunteering to babysit and mowing the lawn show love in a big way and help tremendously because deployments are exhausting. Not only dealing with the separation but that emotional baggage that you carry the entire time is heavy.”

Amanda says your words matter, too.

“If you are saying 'at least' statements that is actually not helpful for anyone going through a tough time. It invalidates their experience,” she said.

She suggests staying away from saying “The time will go fast” and “At least you have kids to keep you busy.”

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