When Christina Craft learned in late 2009 that her husband, Paul, an Army lieutenant colonel, would be sent to Afghanistan, she knew she had to get busy. A seasoned military wife, she understood the months of loneliness, anxiety and single parenting ahead. But she was concerned for other spouses who might not know how to cope.
“Some of the younger spouses tend to withdraw. Depression is a reality,” Christina, age 40, says.
So Christina formed IMPACT: Imparting Military Practical Advice, Connecting Together to help military families thrive during deployment. She held the first meeting in her home, inviting about a dozen other spouses. “It was kind of like speed dating,” she laughs, describing how they paired off for a fast round of questions to break the ice.
GET CHRISTINA'S THREE TOP TIPS FOR STAYING CALM IN STRESSFUL TIMES.
IMPACT assists spouses with everything from Skyping overseas to finding counselors and even hairstylists. “We want to help families cope in a positive way, not get trapped in worry, worry, worry,” Christina says.
The group becomes an extended family for each other—almost instantly, she adds. Most military families, for example, relocate during the summer. “So you’re registering your child for a new school, and the form asks for two emergency contacts,” says the mom of 13-year-old Katelyn, who has already attended seven schools. “You’re texting someone you just met that morning, asking if you can list them.”
IMPACT “reminded me that I can’t overlook the importance of making connections with others in our military community,” says member Beth Bellizzi, who nominated Christina for a Spry Inspiration Award. “No amount of Army resources can make a difference if you don’t have people like Christina, working one spouse at a time, to alleviate the stress that is part of military spouses’ world so they can make their health a priority.”