Reservists' Families Hit Hard by Extended Tours of Duty

This is a partial transcript of The Big Story With John Gibson, September 17, 2003, that has been edited for clarity.

JOHN GIBSON, HOST: They used to be called weekend warriors, but many members of the National Guard and the reserves are no longer part-time. Heather Nauert is here with more on the struggles facing some of their families.

HEATHER NAUERT, CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John. Well, some reservists and members of the National Guard (search) are facing lengthy and dangerous deployments and some families back home are having a difficult time making ends meet.

Joining me from New Haven, Conn. is Cheryl Self, whose husband Todd is a sergeant deployed in Iraq with the 143rd Military Police Company (search), a National Guard company based in Connecticut. Cheryl, today's big question is, what does the war in Iraq mean to National Guard families, families like yours?

CHERYL SELF, WIFE OF NATIONAL GUARDSMAN: Basically it just means a lot of praying. A lot of worrying.

NAUERT: I understand that your husband may be overseas in Iraq until at least next April. How is your family getting by financially?

SELF: We're doing okay. I actually am staying with my parents just for moral support, but, of course, it is also helping financially.

NAUERT: We hear that a lot of families out there are really having a tough financial go of it. For example, especially the self-employed members of the reserves, once they go over there, they are facing a big drop in income. Is the government doing enough to help these families?

SELF: To be honest, I'm not all that sure since I'm not having financial difficulties with it, but I know that there are ways out there for families to get help.

NAUERT: You are involved with your husband's unit's family readiness group, which basically helps families to prepare for their husband's deployment. What kind of advice do you give them when they find out their spouse is going overseas, about how they can manage financially?

SELF: Basically, “Just keep doing what you've been doing. Do the same things that you've been doing. Save for when they get back.” And that's really all that you can do.

NAUERT: Is there anything that the average American who wants to help out — because these men and women are putting their lives on the line. They're being asked to be over there for a long period of time. Granted, they did sign up for it, but it's a lot more than people expected. What can the average American do to pitch in to help out families like yours and others?

SELF: Just basically keep us in their thoughts. If they have services that they would like to offer, that's also helpful, but just basically, letting others know that they care about us and that they have concerns for the soldiers.

NAUERT: But there are certainly some families — we've heard anecdotal stories about people losing their homes. Some families even having to go on welfare, I understand. There's got to be more than just keeping families in their thoughts and prayers that people can do to pitch in and help.

SELF: Like I said, if there's financial services that people would like to maybe offer, then that would be one thing, but I really don't have that situation. So it's hard for me to answer.

NAUERT: What seems to be sort of some of the biggest concerns that other spouses you've talked to have about having their spouses overseas?

SELF: Just that they miss them, of course. It's hard when you have children. I have a two-and-a-half-year-old. And it's just difficult. It's hard for the kids to understand. And you as a parent making them understand or helping them understand, but that's probably the biggest thing is the children and trying to get yourself into a routine.

NAUERT: Cheryl Self, thanks so much. Good luck to you and your husband. Hope all goes well over there.

Since 9/11, about 300,000 of the 1.2 million members of the National Guard and reserves have been called up. As of now, there are more than 5,000 deployed in Iraq and about 12,000 deployed in Kuwait.

GIBSON: These are the people doing the heavy lifting of this war and I hope they get some help. Heather, thanks very much.

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