A dinner is more than food

  • Published
  • By Natalie Stanley
  • 926th Wing

It takes a village to maintain resilience during a deployment. 

For families of deployed Airmen, something as simple as a meal prepared by others can help ease some of the stress. It can also offer a community who understands. 

“We want people to know that we are also their family, especially when their loved ones are away,” said Eileen Collins, the 926th Wing Airman and Family Readiness Center director.

The Hearts Apart program, hosted by the Airman and Family Readiness Centers, focuses on deployment readiness activities and provides an opportunity for families to stay connected throughout their Airmen’s deployment.

“It’s nice to have activities and special events specifically for the family,” said Staff Sgt. Julie Camacho, 926th Airman and Family Readiness noncommissioned officer and spouse of a deployed active duty member.

At Nellis Air Force Base, the Hearts Apart program primarily consists of twice monthly ‘deployment dinners’ at local casinos.

“Having a meal already prepared for you twice a month is a huge stress relief,” said Camacho. “It’s one less thing to worry about and that is priceless.”

However, the meal is more than just food, it’s a connection.

“Not only do these dinners give families a break from cooking, they also give them a chance to connect to people who understand exactly what they are going through in that moment,” Collins said.

February’s event was particularly special, as the monthly dinner was turned into a Valentine’s Day themed dinner and dance.

Around 200 people attended the event, held in conjunction with the USO and Blue Star Families, a non-profit veteran organization. They celebrated the holiday with a buffet, dancing and games.

Families can participate throughout the deployment and for a short time after the member returns home, ensuring military families are cared for during stressful times.