CARIBOU, Maine — Aroostook County residents tonight will get a firsthand look at issues returning service members and their families face when the deployment is completed and how the community can help make the transition easier.
The Maine Military & Community Network is sponsoring “To War and Back Again: Your Neighborhood Service Member Talks about Coming Home.” The event, which will take place at Cary Medical Center at 6 p.m., will feature service members and their families discussing the deployment and the return home after deployment. The event also will include a presentation on the effects of deployment on children.
The mission of the Maine Military & Community Network is to develop and maintain a multigroup network among community, military, government and private sectors that creates awareness of challenges and resources, and provides services to all service members and their families throughout the deployment cycle.
Organizers said Wednesday the presentation will give community members a better idea of the various issues service members and their families face in Maine.
Tonight’s discussion is the third in a series of similar events organized by MMCN throughout the state, with other discussions being held in Ellsworth and Topsham.
Lt. Col. Andrew Gibson is a full-time chaplain and the director of Deployment Cycle Services for Maine Army National Guard. Gibson will lead tonight’s discussion with soldiers and their families. In addition to discussing deployment, they also will talk about the programs and the resources that are in place to assist them, Gib-son said.
“They’ll talk about what helped and what did not, as well as the things that they’d like to see in place to offer support.”
Gibson said the event also will raise awareness about MMCN regional groups in Caribou and Houlton.
“We are going to encourage people to join these groups,” Gibson said Wednesday. “We’ve had success with regional groups in other areas and have them set up in Sanford, Augusta, Bangor and Belfast.”
Gibson said all soldiers and their families can benefit from services offered by MMCN.
“There are barriers to soldiers and their families accessing resources,” he said. “Sometimes it is because they don’t know what resources are out there. Other times it is that they know what resources are out there but they are so overwhelmed that they are just frozen and they don’t access any of them.
“When we raise awareness in the community, we also give community members a chance to learn what resources are available so they can help service members and their families. We want to make sure that everyone knows there are programs out there to help,” Gibson said.