Kailua, Hawaii - “Aloha” in the Hawaiian language means affection, peace, compassion and mercy—all qualities that are found in abundance among those who work with, volunteer for and are helped by the Semper Fi Fund.
All qualities, too, that are found in abundance at the monthly Semper Fi Fund spouses’ dinners held at various restaurants around Hawaii’s Oahu island, known—quite appropriately, given the purpose of these dinners—as “The Gathering Place” (the photos you see here are from a recent dinner at Buona Sera Italian restaurant in Kailua).
“The Semper Fi Fund has been doing these dinners here for a years now,” explains Hawaii-based Marianne Espinoza, Manager of Sports Programs for the Semper Fi Fund. “I’ve been doing it since January 2013."
“The dinners are a way to bring the spouses together outside the military events,” Marianne continued, “for them to get to know each other on a different level and not worry about the high prices of food here in Hawaii. This setting helps them open up and relax and find the support they need to get through some tough situations."
“We had one new spouse join us this month, and she had questions about how to handle life situations. Everyone jumped in to support her. We also discussed Team Semper Fi, because a few of the ladies’ husbands are on the Team. The spouses want to bike ride with their husbands.”
While it may seem that the dinners are a relatively casual social gathering, they remain a vitally important part of the support system for service members and spouses located in our 50th state.
“My family has been blessed to have received support from the Semper Fi Fund during our time of crisis and now recovery,” writes Griselda, one of the spouses who has attended the monthly dinners. “We were not aware of this organization, nor did we understand what type of support they provided—until we were strongly encouraged to make contact with a Semper Fi Fund case manager. The impact Semper Fi Fund has had on my family is huge. The message received by my family, especially my very ill husband, has been, ‘You are not alone. We are here for you to help you and your family.'"
“My entire family was medically evacuated to Hawaii from Japan with little notice,” Griselda continued. “We found ourselves in a new state, with no transportation to get our boys to and from their new schools, or to go grocery shopping for a family of five. During this time of distress and crisis, the Semper Fi Fund supported us by absorbing the cost of our car rentals on two occasions, a cost we were not prepared to finance. This huge financial assistance lifted a good amount of stress off my shoulders and my husband's, allowing my husband to channel his energy on getting well. We no longer had those worries, so we could focus our energy on helping our boys adjust to their new environment, and my husband on staying positive."
“The Semper Fi Fund has also provided me as a caregiver with emotional support through the monthly dinners they have sponsored, reminding me of the importance of self-care and sisterhood. These dinners have fostered a wonderful opportunity to share stories and process life challenges we encounter as caregivers, as well as share in sisterhood conversations. I know I find myself sharing my positive experience with the Semper Fi Fund with other fellow military wives and caregivers. My family and I are very grateful for all the support we have received from the Semper Fi Fund.”
Not as grateful as all of us are for the sacrifices Griselda, her husband and her entire family—as well as service members and families just like hers—have made on behalf of us all.
Mahalo nui loa—thank you very much.