RAF MILDENHALL, England --
Imagine standing outside amid hurricane-force winds and a torrential downpour of rain. Like a curious child, imagine trying to balance yourself by leaning forward as the rain and wind sting your face - knowing all the while that leaning just a fraction in any direction would send you tumbling over.
If this scene is vivid now, try to imagine lifting up one leg. Without the support of both, would you come crashing to the ground?
What if you permanently lost that leg, could you continue to support yourself day in and day out or would it be nice to have a crutch to lean on from time to time?
Would your life have reached the turning point?
Thanks to the efforts of Master Sgt. Blake Meyer, 100th Logistics Readiness Squadron Asset Management non commissioned officer in charge, and two 48th Medical Operations Squadron Family Advocacy Outreach managers, many Team Mildenhall and Lakenheath single parents will soon have a crutch to help them when the winds of their lives blow too hard and set them off balance.
A new single parent support group was recently formed to assist both single parents and those who find themselves as the sole parent due to deployments, said Marie Moore, Family Advocacy Outreach manager.
The idea was a long time in the making and actually started when Sergeant Meyer was stationed at RAF Fairford and became the single parent of his three children.
"At the time, my [twin] boys were 4 and my [daughter] was 10, and I was lucky enough to have a lot of friends and family in the area that could help me out," said the Rochester, Minn., native who through an international marriage gained several British family members in the RAF Fairford area.
As a single parent, the master sergeant found himself drawn to other single parents, he said. They seemed to have a common denominator in being single parents.
"We'd see each other at the [child development center], our kids played together, we discussed the same issues and complained about the same problems," Sergeant Meyer said of his newly found comrades. "One particular person, Master Sergeant
Kristin Morris (then a staff sergeant) and I became very good friends, and we always discussed the need for a single parents group."
Because RAF Fairford was so small, Sergeant Meyer didn't feel the base really had the infrastructure to support a full-blown group but still formed an informal network of single parents who helped each other as much as they could with whatever issues popped up.
"We provided childcare for each other, we used each other to vent problems, seek advice and things like that," he said. "I was a little luckier than others at Fairford because I remained close to my ex-wife's family in the area, and they helped out quite a lot when I was TDY or deployed ... or assigned to Korea for a year."
After Korea, Sergeant Meyer followed on to RAF Mildenhall and from hitting the ground here was determined to start a Mildenhall-based single parent support group. After talking to Ms. Moore and Jennifer Inman at Family Advocacy, he discovered both Lakenheath and Mildenhall could benefit from the group.
"Family Advocacy helped Master Sergeant Meyer coordinate his initiative, helped market the idea, and involved senior leadership," said Ms. Moore, stating that most of the work on the initiative was done by Sergeant Meyer himself.
This group will be run by single parents for single parents.
"Between the two bases, we have approximately 170 single parents, not including the hundreds of temporary single parents who have deployed spouses and are facing the same challenges as other single parents," said Sergeant Meyer. "Because most people overseas are away from the direct family support they might get if stationed back in the states, this group offers another avenue of support that [they] usually wouldn't have."
Support groups in general are great, the master sergeant continued. At minimum, they give people a group that shares the same experiences, same questions and same fears.
"Sometimes it's nice to talk to other people who have already walked a mile in your shoes," he said.
Sergeant Meyer invites anyone to attend the groups first meeting, scheduled for March 27 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the RAF Lakenheath Airman & Family Readiness Center.
The first meeting will be to generally discuss what ways everyone can contribute to and benefit from the group. Ideally, it will be a mix of specialized classes and discussions slanted toward being a single parent. The plan is to have specialists cover the following:
Fitness for the single parent
"Sometimes empathy is a strong drug," Sergeant Meyer said. "If you are surrounded by people who relate to your pains and frustrations, it can be like a 200-pound rock has just been lifted from your shoulders. I hope, above all, that we can provide an environment to support those frustrations and hopefully offer some ideas on how to best deal with them."
To sign up for the single parent support group, members can call Sergeant Meyer at 01638 545127, or DSN at 238-5127, or send an e-mail to email@example.com
Editor's note: The Turning Point is a recurring series scheduled to continue through May 2010. Look for part 5 of The Turning Point on www.mildenhall.af.mil soon.