By Barry Morris
The birth of a child is typically a joyous occasion when family and friends gather together to support mothers and fathers-to-be as they celebrate and navigate their changing family dynamics. However, due to distant duty stations or deployments, many military parents experience this time in their lives far away from their homes and loved ones.
This is where the USO steps in to deliver on its mission of strengthening service members and their families through connection.
Since 2013, the USO has hosted USO Special Delivery baby showers for more than 15,000 military parents and parents-to-be around the globe. USO Special Delivery celebrates, educates and connects new and expectant parents who are often stationed far from their families, friends and support networks during their pregnancies. Studies have shown that having proper support through pregnancies is crucial to the emotional and physical health of expectant parents – which is why this kind of USO program is so important.
USO North Carolina recently hosted more than 40 mothers-to-be, many with babies already in tow, at the USO center on Fort Bragg. The event included games, lunch and gifts, as well as valuable and insightful resources shared by local installation partners, such as the Armed Services YMCA, Fort Bragg Army Community Services and the Cumberland County Department of Public Health, who were also in attendance.
The day was filled with laughter from both the moms and babies, and served as a great way for these military spouses to build friendships, share knowledge and be pampered with lunch and gifts. For these expectant parents, this small bit of celebration and normalcy can make all the difference in morale, as many have had to experience their pregnancy and the birth of their child while their spouse was deployed or away at training.
For Stacey Dyadushenko, whose husband was one of the first soldiers to deploy as part of the rapid deployment of forces from Fort Bragg to Eastern Europe last February, the USO has helped her stay connected with her local community.
“The USO has helped me connect with – and build a sense of community with – other military spouses here in the Fort Bragg area who are going through some of the same challenges I am,” said Stacey, who is a mother of four and is due to give birth to her fifth child in June. “Sometimes you feel you don’t have the resources you need, but that’s where the USO really comes in to help and support us through programs like this.”
While at the USO Special Delivery event at Fort Bragg, Stacey noted that the USO not only provides comfort for her, but for her husband as well, who is currently away for training at an undisclosed location as he prepares to deploy again in the not-so-distant future.
“My husband can focus on his training, knowing that I am not alone – because he knows the USO is right here with me,” Stacey said.
Similar to Stacey, other spouses in attendance shared related stories of having their loved one deployed or away from training during their pregnancy.
Bharpreet Paredes, who also enjoyed the Special Delivery event, gave birth to her youngest child while her husband was away at Advanced Individual Training (AIT). She shared that it was a challenge having her husband gone for so long, especially during the birth of their little girl.
Bharpreet’s family lives in California, so it’s not easy for them to be close by all the time, to support her at moment’s notice. However, when she is able to travel home to visit with her family, the USO’s airport centers have been a true blessing for her.
“The USO centers in the airports are amazing.” Bharpreet said. “Being able to sit in a chair in a private, safe space and nurse my little girl, and having the support from the USO volunteers working that day, making sure I was ok and that I had everyone I needed, made me feel like family.”
Of course, the USO Special Delivery event would not have been possible without the support from our caring and compassionate USO volunteers. Ten dedicated USO volunteers collectively devoted over 60 volunteer hours in orchestrating this event, ensuring the attending military spouses all had a wonderful time.
“It was such a fabulous event – all the moms had so much fun,” said Shauna Johnson, a USO volunteer of over 10 years. “Quite honestly, I think all of us volunteers had just as much fun, and it brings us all such great joy to be able to support our young military families.”
Rachal Taylor, the USO Center Programs Manager at Fort Bragg, planned the event. As a military spouse herself, she knows firsthand the challenges expecting military spouses experience, which is why the USO Special Delivery program is an important program for her – one that she is truly passionate about.
“As a military spouse, I moved to Fort Bragg with my husband, and I was 30 weeks pregnant and he immediately left thereafter for training,” Rachel said. “I attended a USO baby shower and I felt so welcomed, the USO showed me compassion and empathy, and connected me to fellow spouses that I otherwise wouldn’t have met.”
And from that moment on, Rachel started volunteering with the USO, and she has been proudly serving as a USO employee since 2017.
USO Special Delivery continues to fill a meaningful connection void for new moms and dads stationed overseas, providing them with the support and meaningful connections that every parent deserves as they prepare for the birth of their child.
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