When Joliet, Illinois resident Geriann Wiesbrook held a birthday party for an “adopted” soldier serving overseas in 2013, she would never have imagined that she would soon be starting a non-profit organization to provide both material and emotional support to U.S. troops and their families. Today that organization, the Military Mama Network, has helped hundreds of men and women in the military, as well as their families.
At the time of the Military Mama Network’s (www.militarymamanetwork.org) founding, Wiesbrook was an administrator with the Southwest Community Church in Minooka, Illinois, but she got so involve with Military Mamas that she retired to dedicate herself to the organization full time.
The Military Mama Network began with Wiesbrook and five additional mamas who launched what is now a 10,000-member, coast-to-coast network of military family support in 42 states that serves soldiers in 47 countries and the United States.
The Mamas supply soldiers with “boxes” that typically contain items that are not readily available, especially to those who serve overseas such as shampoo, underarm deodorant and toothpaste. In addition, Mammas mail birthday and holiday cards to soldiers.
The network also offers guidance.
“If we can find someone or an organization to help our troops and families we help them that way, if they can’t we fill the gap,” Wiesbrook said. “We’re a person-to-person network, that’s our philosophy.”
She noted an example just last week where the Mamas assisted an airman who was living on the street.
“We gave him food and water, paid for a hotel room, gave him money and kept in touch with him.”
The network also assists soldiers who have children in buying school supplies.
“The younger enlisted don’t make much money so we’ll assist those with kids,” Wiesbrook said.
The Mamas also visit soldiers at Veterans Affairs hospitals.
“Not all VA hospitals are deplorable,” Wiesbrook said. “But we reach out to local legislators and apply pressure on them to improve conditions. We also visit soldiers at VA hospitals, we’ll sit with them and visit while they’re waiting for test results and bring them magazines.”
Right now the Mamas are gearing up for its Eastern Conference, slated for Sept. 14-16 in Arlington, Virginia. It’s an educational conference for new Mamas and to kick off new chapters.
“We stress the importance on how to reach out to local legislators, and we do training on how to support your region and help it grow, Wiesbrook said.
Wiesbrook said they’ll kick off the event by laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Locally, the Mamas hosted a fundraising motorcycle run Saturday, Aug. 15. The participants rode through Joliet and Plainfield and finished at Joe’s Bar in Joliet. After the ride, there was a dinner party with live bands and door prizes.
All money went to fund the Military Mamas and its chapters.