After Jingya Wang ’06 heard accounts two summers ago of the hardships military families faced after one or more of their members was deployed in Iraq, she decided to take action.
The result of her efforts was the Yale College Student Association for Military Family Support, a group that raises money for military families in need. The club, which Wang founded last fall, met for the first time this year Tuesday night.
“When soldiers on reserve leave their homes, there’s a lot of financial burden that’s left behind in the family,” Wang said. “If both parents leave, a child is left behind.”
The group is looking to recruit a large number of volunteers, Wang said — it has five events planned for September alone. By the end of last year, the group had 10 to 12 consistently active members, Wang said.
But misconceptions about the club make some students shy away, members said. Wang said the biggest obstacle faced by the club is the misconception many students have that the group favors military action, particularly in Iraq.
“The word ‘military’ conjures up a lot of political ideas and assumptions in people’s minds, and so it’s very difficult for us to recruit members because it’s a very liberal campus and people tend to shy away from anything to do with the military and the war,” Wang said. “But we are not focused on the politics; we are focused on the families who are suffering.”
Louis Preziosi, president of the Connecticut National Guard Foundation, said his organization plans to appoint a number of its volunteers to assist as liaisons to YSAMFS members and collaborate on fundraising at New Haven high schools and local fairs.
“Last year [the YSAMFS] donated from $500 to $1,000,” Preziosi said. “The group sold yellow ribbons and God Bless America ribbons at football games, including the Harvard/Yale game.”
YSAMFS Webmaster Denise Levitan ’06 said last year she most enjoyed volunteering at an Easter Egg Hunt YFSMFS and other groups organized for hundreds of military families and that this year fundraising would be the most challenging activity.
“Trying to sell stuff at the Harvard/Yale game is the hardest thing because people are only thinking then, ‘crush Harvard in football,'” she said.
Wang said other fundraising activites YSAMFS has planned for the upcoming months included going to the Willimantic Street Festival and the Hartford Expo.
Clubs like YSAMFS are important because when a member of the military is put on active duty, his or her family’s income may decrease by as much as half, Preziosi said.
“Most of the people activated are in the mid-range salary-wise, and they’re the ones that will experience the most financial difficulty,” Preziosi said.
Soldiers often make less than they could earn working full-time civilian jobs, Preziosi said.
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