Published August 18, 2009
Volume 17, Number 8

Pleasanton Military Families Provide Comfort to Soldiers and Folks Back Home

A group called Pleasanton Military Families (PMF) is making sure that local troops “serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, and in the Global War on Terrorism” know how much they are appreciated by the folks at home. The group also supports the soldiers’ families through the anxieties of having a loved one on active duty, often drawing more than 50 people to its gatherings.

Along with monthly meetings, the support group has initiated several programs that give tangible expression to their concerns: downtown flags, remembrance streamers, care packages, and celebratory homecomings.

Thanks to PMF, American flags have been flying in downtown Pleasanton since the first Gulf War, when local resident Chris Miller started the group with a few helpers. Miller, who retired as a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve, had been a helicopter pilot in Viet Nam. He never forgot how “disturbing” he found the treatment of returning vets at the time. His resolve to prevent a reoccurrence in the aftermath of a future war led to the formation of PMF. During the first Gulf conflict, the group met weekly, providing solace to families and a warm welcome to returning soldiers. The American flags went up at that time—the city was very cooperative, Miller recalls—and continue to this day, removed only during holidays.

The yellow streamers on Main Street light posts have also been a fixture downtown for years. Each streamer bears the name, rank, and branch of an individual soldier on active duty. They temporarily came down last month when the city painted all the light poles; a refashioned, more durable version will soon replace them. A sample is up in front of Dean’s Restaurant, Miller notes. 

The group also conducts three “pack-outs” per year, collecting items to send to the troops overseas for the December holidays, at Easter season, and for Fourth of July.  The most recent, which took place in early June, attracted more than 50 energetic volunteers who spent a Sunday sorting goods and packing them up in mailing cartons. “We try to send four boxes to each serviceman or woman, one for themselves and the others to share.” The effort takes considerable coordination, checking that deployment information is current to avoid sending several packages to someone on the way home. The contents have to be appropriate to the destination—no melting chocolate in Afghanistan, for example. 

The “Welcome Homes” can be ceremonious affairs. “We typically try to do this as a surprise,” Miller says. Each Welcome is a mission for local Warriors’ Watch Riders, a national motorcycle group that supports U.S. troops. The riders first line up in the airport terminal to greet the returning serviceperson and then provide a motorcycle escort on the ride home. The next stage is the homecoming party, with friends, neighbors, members of the VFW and, usually, a few city officials on hand to mark the occasion.

PMF continues to hold support meetings in member homes on the second Tuesday of the month. For more information or to contribute to the group’s projects, contact Miller at millercj3@gmail.com.     


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