Linda and Peter Bryan know exactly how it feels to watch a son deployed into battle.
The Rancho Cucamonga husband and wife are the proud parents of a U.S. Army Ranger and a Purple Heart recipient.
And although he's been in the military for some years now, the fear and worry never seem to go away. Time and experience, however, help fill the voids. That's why Linda Bryan started the Military Family Community Group five years ago on Mother's Day.
"Our son was being deployed for the third time, and we still had worries. I felt that there were other families out there like us who could maybe benefit from our experiences. We had information we might be able to pass on. How do you send mail packages? How do you deal with not hearing from your service person? Where can you go to find a chaplain if you need one?" Linda Bryan said.
The group has been meeting steadily on the first Monday of every month at the Calvary Chapel, 10700 Town Center, Rancho Cucamonga. The start time is 7 p.m. and meetings usually go for about 1 hours.
"We are not a religious organization although we are very grateful to Calvary Chapel for allowing us to use their meeting room. We do not raise money, although we do partner of sorts with another local group called Operation Community Cares. It is run by a remarkable young man named Ryan Orr, who doesn't have any military connection, but routinely sends care packages to our troops. Some of our members have donated to have packages shipped or have helped in putting them together. The organization sent out 800 packages this past Christmas. We appreciate what he does for our kids," Bryan said.
"But what our group does do is offer a place where people can come to be with other people who know what they're going through."
Most of the Military Family Community Group consists of parents of military personnel, but spouses, siblings, fianc es and other family members are more than welcome. Anyone with a loved one serving in any of the five military branches is invited.
"Most of the people who come to our meetings are parents because they're scared. For most, this is all new to them and they have questions and concerns. We normally have a speaker at our meetings and we do have some veterans who come and they provide a lot of knowledge about the military," she said.
Bryan has put together an email chain of about 100 individuals who have an interest in the group. She's active on Facebook and other social media outlets because she feels it's imperative to boost awareness not only of the group, but for support of this country's military.
"There's talk about troop withdrawls but the government is deploying personnel every day. We still have guys and gals working to protect us, and we just want people to know that," she said. "All group members want to do is help in whatever way is needed."
The Inland Valley, Rancho Cucamonga particularly, is well-represented in the military. She said the city of Rancho Cucamonga, alone, has 300 military recognition banners stationed throughout the city.
"We as a group would like to hear from them or reach out to these families if they need help. We want to touch other families because, believe me, I know how scary it is to have an 18-year-old child out there serving his country in very dangerous places," she said.
One task the group members would like to do more of is "welcome home" events at LA/Ontario International Airport. Members aren't always given a heads-up about who is coming home, but if they did they would like to be there.
"We have banners and flags ready to go. We've had five of them, and they've been very touching," she said. "Having loved ones serve is very emotional and we all realize that. That's why we just want to be there to help. We want to know about your loved ones. Come to the meetings. Or just call me if you're having a bad day. We'll cry together, we'll laugh together. We'll get through this together."
For more information about the Military Family Community Group, call 909-481-0707 or send an email to Bryan at firstname.lastname@example.org.