A home front holiday

During a time of year filled with family gatherings, this nonprofit reaches out to support the military families serving on the home front.

In the land of sunshine, beaches, theme parks, and car races, Shakiyah Demelien was studying for her business degree at the University of West Florida when she met Guily Demelien.”When I met him, he was looking at the corporate America track. However, after graduation, he evaluated all his options, visited a recruiter’s office, and decided joining the military was the direction he wanted to go,” said Shakiyah.”We weren’t married then, but we were a year-and-a-half into dating. I supported him, but was a little taken back because I had never known anyone in the military that would make a decision that would directly impact my life.”She had one year of college remaining when Guily entered boot camp. Upon completion from training, he was quickly sent to serve a one-year deployment in Afghanistan.”I was thrust into the military lifestyle, and it wasn’t an easy transition at the beginning. We went from three months of mail communication to two months of ‘I’m glad you’re back home’ to ‘I’ll see you in a year,'” said Shakiyah.”It was an emotional and difficult time as we were still getting to know each other, but I knew I loved him and knew he was going to be my guy, so I stuck around.”During Guily’s deployment to Afghanistan, Shakiyah relied on mail communication to keep their relationship strong and moving forward. She wrote him a letter every other day for a year.”I made a scrapbook of our letters at home. When I look back at those letters, it was a trying time being apart but those letters read of love,” she said.And it was love that kept them together these last six years. Guily completed another tour of duty by serving in Iraq. They were married three years ago, and have a one-year-old son named Kyrii. Guily serves as a lieutenant with Fort Bragg’s 112th Signal Battalion, and Shakiyah opened her own life coaching business, Intrinsic Growth. Guily was recently promoted to captain, and soon they will move to Georgia.”It is very challenging being a military spouse, but I feel honored in a way,” said Shakiyah. “People often think military spouses get tugged along with their husband. We are just like everyone else. We have family, ambitions, and goals, though sometimes we have the added pressure of moving around to duty stations and taking care of the household alone when our spouse is away.”The story of the Demelien family is both heartwarming and special. It serves as a reminder of the bond between military spouses and the sacrifices they make so one spouse can defend the freedoms of a nation.Spouses like Shakiyah are one of the reason’s Diane and Steve Rumley founded Support Military Spouses eight years ago.”We felt the fire in our hearts to show God’s love and to show military spouses he cares about them and hears their prayers,” said Diane.Support Military Spouses (SMS) is the only nonprofit organization in the nation with the sole purpose of supporting military spouses and their children. It recognizes military wives and husbands who carry the responsibilities of family, employment, finances, wounded warrior care, and the honoring of fallen heroes. The signature of SMS is giving away care packages to spouses and children serving on the homefront.”We want people to leave with a package feeling encouraged and knowing that many people in this country love and appreciate them,” said Steve.SMS is supported with donations from Wal-Mart, Wells Fargo, Mattel, American Bible Society, McDonalds, and Hallmark with the gifting of stuffed animals, stationary, jewelry, small toys, and food vouchers. Annually, Hallmark donates between 500,000 — 700,000 items, McDonald’s gifts $25,000 worth of food vouchers, and the American Bible Society donates one million Bibles.Diane notes that every package contains two very special items: a Bible and a handwritten note.”School children through adults write a thank you note to the spouses for their service to our country from a grateful nation,” said Diane.During the first season of operation in 2009, SMS delivered 35 boxes. Now, at the close of 2016, they will have served 50,000 military spouses since their launch.”As Jesus fed the 5,000 with fishes and loaves, we started with little and have grown to serve many,” said Diane. “Hundreds of volunteers spend hours putting together these packages.”SMS visits military bases and cities for the gifting of these packages. On Dec. 2, SMS held their holiday event in Fayetteville giving away 1,200 care packages. Owners and operators from McDonald’s locations throughout the Triangle and Sandhills were there to provide breakfast to the spouses and their children. Ronald McDonald and friends were on hand to visit and entertain the children.”It’s an amazing feeling to know others care and realize what we go through as military spouses,” said Shakiyah. “We are so appreciative to be recognized in this way.”Steve added, “God has provided for us to give to spouses and children. We want them to know they are special.”