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Marines, families find local support

Ranging from fear to anxiety to frustration with little communication, John Milek, a resident of northwest Houston and father to Marine Josh Milek, says family and friends of our armed forces oftentimes need support themselves for their loved ones facing the rigors of boot camp to the dangers of the frontlines of war.

http://www.zwire.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=15492071&BRD=1574&PAG=461&dept_id=532256&rfi=6


By Brandon De Hoyos, Staff Writer11/02/2005


Ranging from fear to anxiety to frustration with little communication, John Milek, a resident of northwest Houston and father to Marine Josh Milek, says family and friends of our armed forces oftentimes need support themselves for their loved ones facing the rigors of boot camp to the dangers of the frontlines of war.
That is where, Milek said, the Houston Marine Parents Association comes in.
In the first weeks of his son's departure to boot camp, Milek described himself as an "emotional mess". But, thanks to the support of others like him, Milek helped channel his grief into a new organization in Houston to help families and friends of Marines.
"My wife, Pam, found this website MarineParents.com, where we were able to make a connection with a woman named Judy Tilbury," Milek said.
"Judy had been asked to help form a Houston chapter of the National Marine Parents Association which was exactly what my family needed at the time."
Meeting in July at Tilbury's home with four in attendance, a charter group comprised of Milek, Tilbury, Sandy Alexander and Terry Heiner helped get the group off the ground.
At the October meeting, Milek said the group has grown to 62 members since the first meeting this summer and continues to grow.
With a two-pronged mission in mind, Milek said the group is designed to help the Marines who serve the United States and the families and friends who send them.
"First, we work to provide support for our Marines stateside and overseas as best as we can," Milek said. "Secondly, we work to support our Marine parents whose children are everywhere from being new recruits at boot camp to deployment to battle overseas."
Currently, the group supports between 300 to 500 Marines through various projects, from fundraising for the purchase of stronger helmets and calling cards to urging local schools from elementary to high school to write letters to Marines in combat.
Last week, the organization found themselves stationed outside of Wal-Mart, S.H. 6 North and S.H. 529, to raise funds for the group's Helmet Project.
"The Oregon Arrow helmets available are developed to withstand much on the battlefield," Milek said. "At $99 a piece, it can be expensive to outfit a platoon of 45 soldiers with these helmets, so we as parents of these Marines are working to help them receive this much needed gear."
In addition to raising funds for the Helmet Project, Milek said the Calling Card Project also helps connect Marine families and friends to their loved ones, especially with the holidays approaching.
"Whether in boot camp or across the world, it is nice to hear from them," Milek said. "We are trying to keep in touch and to help the do that through this project, donating calling cards to connect them with family."
In less than four months, Milek said he is proud of what the group has accomplished, from collecting hundreds of letters for Marines to giving blood to preparing care packages for troops overseas.
Holding one of the elementary school letters, Milek fought back the tears.
"Our group has seven of our sons in Iraq, one in Afghanistan, one in Spain and one in Okinawa," Milek said. "We are so proud of them and I am so proud of the support work we are doing with the Houston Marine Parents Association."
For more information on the Houston Marine Parents Association, visit their Web site at www.marineparents.com/USMC/support-groups-details.asp?ID=20.
Brandon De Hoyos can be reached at bdehoyos@hcnonline.net.