Supporting the citizen marines

WTVG-- February 21, 2007 - Imagine giving up your day job to go fight the war in Iraq. That's what nearly 100 marine reservists based in Perrysburg are doing. Now imagine being a spouse left behind. Being a "citizen marine" means dropping everything when you're deployed. That can leave family members with more to deal with than loneliness. But local volunteers are there to help and the Pentagon has taken notice.

In civilian life, Joe Reimer's a plant manager. But when duty calls, this marine reservist becomes a lietuenant colonel. He's minding the reserve center in Perrysburg while nearly one hundred members of his unit are in Iraq. That's where Julie Szyskowski comes in. She's not a marine, but her significant other is. Julie heads up the Family Readiness Group for the 24th marines' weapons company. Julie says, "I'll have family that will come to me or they'll email and they'll just be a little stressed out that day and they'll say, 'I can't do this', or 'I'm having a hard time with family' or 'I'm having a hard time with getting through the day'."

She and 11 other girlfriends, wives, sisters and parents help families deal with everything from broken pipes to financial trouble. Community volunteers have pitched in with handyman help and even free counseling. There's also financial help available since reservists often have to leave better-paying jobs when they're activated.

The group has grown since the unit's last deployment in 2003. They have a monthly newsletter, a website and an email chain. They've done such good work that the Pentagon just named them Best Marine Family Readiness Group in the country for this year. Joe Reimer says, "People are not gonna be able to do that without their families supporting them. Between the communities and the families, if you look at the big picture. It has really allowed the country to unfortunately go to war and still maintain an all-volunteer force."