After her son, John, visited the family at Christmas, Donna McPherson said goodbye relieved to know he was heading to Arizona, not Iraq.
"He might be deployed to Iraq in the future, but right now, he's still studying the A-10 aircraft at the Air Force base in Tucson, thank goodness,'' she said.
An old friend is not so lucky.
"My girlfriend in Ohio told me her son was redeployed to Iraq last week, and that's incredibly hard,'' McPherson said. "I just wonder: Does America realize how hard these second deployments are?''
The Largo mother hopes she finds answers, or at least some solace Saturday at the Military Family Appreciation Day in Central Park.
"There needs to be a whole bunch of people coming out. We all need to keep showing support.''
For a second year, the program is being coordinated by the city of Largo, Veterans of Foreign War Post 10094, the post's Women's Auxiliary and the Disabled Americans Veterans Clearwater Chapter 11. It will be a chance for families to enjoy the park while receiving valuable information.
The day begins with a kickoff by Mayor Pat Gerard followed by a posting of the colors. Raymond Dempsey, national commander of the Disabled American Veterans, will make the keynote address.
A tent will be set up dubbed "Vet2Vet.'' Organizations offering information include Department of Veterans Affairs, WorkNet Pinellas, Tampa Area Marine Parents Association, Paralyzed Veterans of America and Silver Star Families of America.
"Many people don't realize some of the benefits that are available to both the families as well as to vets themselves,'' said James Orndoff, commander of VFW Post 10094. "I remember when I learned how to file for funeral benefits since I'm a Navy veteran. People just don't know, or don't know who to ask about something like that, and Saturday will give them a chance to sign up for veterans' funeral care,'' he said.
Scott Hood, the DAV chapter commander, stresses the need for those coming back from Iraq to transfer their work experience in the military to a civilian job. "For example, if they worked as a tank driver, how does that career translate? There will be groups on hand who can help members of the military pursue what they need,'' he said.
As for McPherson, she's hoping to visit with other parents of those serving in the current war.
"When you think about the strength parents need to have while a loved one is serving," she said, "the best thing we can do is network with each other to help encourage that.''