When a soldier goes off to war, he or she often leaves family members behind to not only worry about and miss their loved one, but also deal with everyday life without them.

The Family Readiness Group (FRG) works to ease some of the stress, by keeping families informed of what's going on overseas, and by organizing events for the families so they can get to know each other better. FRGs also offer support services such as information and contacts for financial and legal advice as well as social services.

Staff Sergeant Wayne Henry of Shoemakersville is part of Kutztown's National Guard Charlie Company or formally Company "C", 1/111th SBCT. It's a part of the 28th infantry division, and was organized by Benjamin Franklin in 1747.

The unit, comprised mainly of Kutztown University students, has served in Kosovo, and helped Hurricane Katrina victims here at home.

Henry has served three years of active duty in Bosnia and Kosovo, but back then he was single.

Now a father and a newlywed he hopes he won't have to face another deployment, but if he does, he's glad to know the FRG will be there for his family.

The FRG is active even when the troops aren't deployed, and works to get the families together throughout the year.

"Our group tries to meet monthly to plan activities for the children of the unit and to help support the men of the unit through fundraising activities," said Bekki Hardman, Media Chair.

The group hosts events like an annual Easter Egg Hunt and Halloween Party.

In September, the FRG hosted a Luau. Henry's stepdaughter, Marley Wheeler, enjoyed her time there and helped with games for the event.

"That's when I got to meet everybody," said Angie, Henry's wife of less than a year. "It's nice to see him in that atmosphere."

The Kutztown FRG's next event is a Christmas party on Dec. 17.

Santa makes an appearance, raffles are held for door prizes, a slide show of the year's activities is shown, and, of course, there's plenty of food on hand.

A major part of the party is the annual award ceremony. It's held during the party so family and friends can be there to congratulate the award winners.

Each year the National Guard holds a "Soldier of the Year" competition. This year, one of Charlie Company's soldiers has won the award, SPC Matthew Dunwoody, a sophomore at Elizabethtown College.

"Our soldiers are proud of their state, and their country; and the families are proud of their soldiers," said Hardman.

Although Henry hopes to stay home, he knows that should he need to go overseas once again, that the FRG will be there for his family.

"It's nice to know it's there," said Angie.

Contact Penny at plhummel@berksmontnews.com.

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