The annual Governor's Day celebration at Camp Williams is an event at which National Guard families - especially the kids - have a good time playing games, watching a parade and learning about what moms and dads do when they go to camp.
Saturday's event at the Utah National Guard training installation in Draper was no exception, except perhaps for the added urgency behind the message emblazoned on thousands of helium balloons - "The Guard Is Family."The balloons were furnished by the Guard's Family Assistance program, said program coordinator Richard Boswell, who took his job just weeks before the 1987 helicopter crash at Fort Irwin, Calif., that left two Utah Guard members dead and three critically injured. Then, as now, Family Assistance had a major job to do.
Two Utah National Guard units, the 142nd Linguist and the 120th Quartermaster companies, are already in Saudi Arabia as part of Operation Desert Shield. Other units may be called up, too, depending on the military needs.
Global tension is causing extraordinary stress in military families. And though no one wants to think the worst, it is folly not to anticipate and be prepared for it, Boswell said.
That's where Family Assistance comes in. The program's first priority is to make sure families are kept informed, Boswell said.
"In the past, it's been family over here, and military over there, and never the twain would meet," he said.
With the emphasis on frequent telephone calls from the six Family Assistance workers throughout the state, the families at home begin to feel supported instead of isolated and left alone.
From that comes the second Family Assistance program goal - bonding, "the feeling that they're welcome in the National Guard family," Boswell said.
Tying these two goals together is the very important third component of the program: family wellness and mobilization preparedness.
Family Assistance worker Cyndy Fobert has put together a legal notebook that has become a model for other Guard units across the country, Boswell said. The notebook gets a family's affairs in order in advance of any tragedy.
"We help them get prepared for something that may never happen, but if it does, they are ready," Boswell said.
For example, families in which both parents are Guard members and single-parent families are required to name a guardian for children left at home.