In a few short weeks, Lindsay Laflamme will say goodbye to her husband, Chris, Machinists Mate First Class aboard USS Ronald Reagan; his ship will depart soon from the pier at Naval Air Station North Island. This, however, will not be the typical farewell of a wife saying goodbye to her husband and leaving for a 6 or 7-month deployment. Chris will be leaving for 3 years as the Reagan forward deploys to its new home in Yokosuka, Japan, as part of a historic “triple hull swap” of 3 different aircraft carriers.
“I know the separation will be difficult,” said Laflamme. She will stay in San Diego to be closer to family. “Chris will come home on leave and we hope to go and visit him there.” This brave couple has two children, Hadley, 5, and Harper, 3.
With a long separation looming ahead, quality family time is especially important. That’s why the LaFlammes and their neighbors, Jonathon and Sarah Stone, came to spend time at Rock Church’s second annual Boots Off! event.
Stone, an Aviation Support Equipment-Man First Class, will be flying out soon to join the USS Essex currently on deployment. The Stones have 4 children ranging in ages from 2 to 8.
Some nine hundred and seventy guests attended the multi-site event, which took place in Point Loma, East County and North County; military families were given options this year to attend a campus that was closer to home for some.
There are an estimated one hundred and seventy-five thousand military personnel living in the San Diego area, most with families. Military members of all branches of the Armed Services attended the event—from the Navy and Marine Corps to the Army and Air Force. National Guard and reservists attended as well.
There was free food, free clothes, free school supplies, and lots of free hugs extended toward all who attended the event. There were plenty of activities for the children as well.
Boots Off! gives the Rock Church’s Military Ministry a chance to “love on” families like the Laflammes and the Stones who face many challenges unique to military families. It’s estimated that military families relocate ten times more often than civilian families and on average, every 2 to 3 years.
In addition, the typical child of an active-duty service member moves 6 to 9 times between kindergarten and high-school graduation. Many children have to say goodbye to a deployed parent more than once, according to a report by the National Child Traumatic Stress Network.
The Military Ministry, partnering with many other Rock Ministries, such as the Makeover Ministry, the Jesus Geeks, the Photo Ministry, the DJ Ministry, the Rockpile Bookstore, and Rock Thrift Stores, among others, donated their time, talents, and resources to help make the event a success!
Among the services offered: over one hundred and twenty haircuts were provided by the Makeover Ministry; Twenty-one computers were serviced by the Jesus Geeks; and over one hundred and ninety family photos were taken by the Photo Ministry. Young and old enjoyed the fun and activities of a summer day in San Diego not without a good measure of sweet and salty treats. Rock volunteers gave out five hundred pieces of cotton candy, six hundred bags of popcorn and eight hundred snow cones.
2015 Boots Off! Event Stats
972 guests in attendance
1500 bags of school supplies donated
*estimated value at $14,080
3,000 lunches served during, prior to, and post event
1044 items of sports clothing donated
*estimated value at $15,660
433 free services including massages, photos, haircuts, and computer services
*estimated value at $23,995
714 raffle items and gift cards given away
*estimated value at $21,060
2,016 volunteer hours
*estimated $32,478 in volunteer savings
Military Branches Loved On
Boots Off! is just one of the Military Ministry’s events. This Ministry exists to serve the military community by cultivating an atmosphere where the Gospel is expressed through love and support.
The ministry team is comprised of active duty military, their spouses, veterans, and others in the community who want to give back to those who give so much in the defense of America. Anyone who wants to join is welcome.
Darlynne Menkin has been the leader of the Military Ministry for the last 3 years. “When I stepped up to become the leader, I had never lead a ministry before,” said Menkin. “God gave me some wonderful people to work with.”
Though Menkin had never been in the military, her father was an Army officer. “Growing up in a military family,” she said, “I've always had a soft heart for our men and women in uniform, and their families. My husband Marc and I always make it a point to donate our time to military causes, but a few years ago, I felt that God wanted me to do more.”
One Sunday, she read in the Rock Church's bulletin that they were looking for a leader for the Military Ministry. She remembered thinking to herself that she wanted to help, but didn’t want to be the leader.
She soon found however, that God had other plans for her.
"Not long after, I was talking to my sister-in-law. She was telling me how tough it was right before her husband, my brother, left for Afghanistan. They have young triplets and had just moved to Tampa so they really didn't know anyone. She told me that if it wasn't for the church who welcomed them with open arms, she didn't know what she would have done. It was at that moment when I realized there are many women just like my sister-in-law right here in San Diego who need help, and God was asking me to step up. I contacted the Rock Church that day and said ‘I'm in.’”
The ministry has grown in leaps and bounds since then, thanks to the first Boots Off! event last year. In the works for the future will be the second annual Military Marriage Conference and a Military Men's Conference.
Menken said the marriage conference will be held November 7 at the Point Loma Campus. The focus of the conference will be to “encourage, uplift, and inspire military couples,” she said. “Military couples face unique situations especially with constant deployments. It can be a stressful situation, but if you learn to lean on God, you'll be alright. Our ministry is very excited to be hosting this conference once again.”
Another big upcoming event is the Military Men's Conference scheduled for September 25-27 at Camp Pendleton. This weekend retreat will allow men to fellowship with their Christian brothers while strengthening their relationship with Christ. In addition to speakers and workshops, there will be plenty of outdoor activities, according to Menken.
Finally, the ministry will have their annual Christmas Party for military families on December 5 at the Rock Church’s Point Loma Campus. There will be food, entertainment, prizes, and worship.
Menken was pleased with the outcome of this year’s Boots Off! event.
“This year, the feel of the event was very intimate and personal. Many of us had conversations that were deeper, and we were able to connect with the families on a more personal level,” she said. “Serving those who serve their country was such an incredible, unforgettable feeling.”
Rock Church member, Sarah Stone said what she enjoyed most about Boots Off! was the genuine sincerity and kindness of all the volunteers. “Everyone was so thankful to see us. And we love to worship at the Rock. We feel so at home there.”
Lindsay, facing a long separation from her husband, said she was impressed enough with the event, that she might consider attending Rock Church services in the future. “I want to find a vibrant faith community. My relationship with God is a joyous one.”
To learn more about the Rock Church Military Ministry and upcoming events, go HERE.