Patti Morris showed up at last week's Family Support Group meeting at the La Grande Armory in the middle of a move from Pendleton. Within 5 minutes she had a commitment for help.

"We'll set up a work party to get her moved in," said Major Ricardo Gloria. By 10:30pm, an 8-person crew of National Guard spouses and officers had Morris's U-Haul unloaded and she was able to move into her apartment.

"They were a godsend," Morris said afterwards, "I'm really appreciative."

Lahna Avery, a 7-year member of the Family Support Group, said, "That's what we need to be here for."

Her son Jason, who left for Texas in June, signed up for the Guard when he was still in high school, and has been a full-time Supply Sgt. at the National Guard Battalion in Baker City. He will be 24 in October, before he leaves for Iraq at the end of the year.

"The program is really important. We have some fun together, worry about our guys and support each other. It's good to have someone to call when you're feeling down," Avery said.

"What these families need is emotional support," she noted.

Morris's husband, Sgt. David Morris, is an Army Medic on active duty in Texas. She was making the move to La Grande to be able to continue taking courses at Eastern Oregon University, where she is in her junior year.

397 National Guard members left for training in Fort Bliss, Texas on July 2 as members of the 3rd Battalion, 116th Cavalry of Eastern Oregon. Gloria continues to act as a liaison for these men and women, and is the detachment commander for the La Grande Family Support Group.

"It's going to be a long deployment," Gloria said. The service men and women will be on active duty for 18 months and most of their spouses are used to them being gone only one weekend a month for local drills.

"It's vital that we have a Family Support Group so they can take care of each other," Gloria said. The group is organized by its members, with a program coordinator and volunteer leaders for specific tasks like dealing with the media and finding local resources.

The ability of the woman to deal with problems at home without passing them on to the soldiers was important, Gloria said. "If it's fixable here on the ground," he said, "don't bother your spouse."

Under federal Title 10 guidelines, according to Gloria, the deployed Guardsmen became regular US Army soldiers when they were deployed on June 28. He said he fell under Title 10 at the same time.

One of the critical issues the wives will have to deal with is finding the resources to fly their spouses back home when they take 10-days of leave before being sent to Iraq.

"Right now we don't know who's coming when," Gloria said, "So be prepared, start thinking ahead."

The latest information that Gloria has received is the leaves will be scheduled between Oct. 31 and Nov. 15. He cautioned that this is still tentative and is subject to change.

"It's going to be a long deployment," Gloria said. The service men and women will be on active duty for 18 months and most of their spouses are used to them being gone only one weekend a month for local drills and two weeks in the summer.

The La Grande/Union County Chamber of Commerce is presently working to find ways to help military families. Any of the members of the Family Support Group who are interested, Gloria said, must contact the Chamber themselves. The Guard cannot share the names of its members with outside groups.

Gloria said he would travel to Salem for a Sept. 25 awards ceremony for Family Support Group volunteers and coordinators across Oregon. Transportation is available for local members who want to attend.

"They'll get to see other Family Support Group coordinators whose spouses have already been deployed, and see how they've handled the issues that come up."

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