By Robert Crittendon

“If spirits won’t lift with a cup of tea, then they must very heavy be. No matter what I have to do, my friend there’s always time for you.” -Observations on tea

San Clemente Military Family Outreach hosted a Southern California-style tea for Marine wives. Courtesy photo
San Clemente Military Family Outreach hosted a Southern California-style tea for Marine wives. Courtesy photo

If there were any heavy spirits at Camp Pendleton’s San Onofre Clubhouse on Saturday, May 25, they were hard to find and quickly dissipated as Marine, Navy and Air Force wives enjoyed a delightful “spot of tea”—southern California style.

San Clemente Military Family Outreach (SCMFO), a local nonprofit serving north-Camp Pendleton families for over 10 years, hosted the celebration.

This was no “tea for two” either. Twenty-some military spouses from nearby San Onofre housing came together in a lovely springtime setting for iced tea, lemonade, finger sandwiches, sweets, door prizes and goodie bags. The bags contained all manner of gift items provided by businesses and individuals from south Orange County.

But probably the greatest commodity shared was conversation … chatting, laughing, sharing talk of everything from babies to bargain hunting. The stress of deployments and prolonged single parenting was, at least for a few minutes, far away.

That was exactly what the Outreach volunteers had in mind.

“Boosting the spirits of military wives who must hold it together while their husbands are deployed—and in some cases, military husbands whose wives are deployed—is a major reason SCMFO is hosting this tea,” said Judy Franz, a volunteer from Christ Lutheran Church in San Clemente.

Her co-host for the event, Peg Jiura, added, “We wanted to show these ladies how much we love and respect them and their families for the sacrifices they make on a daily basis. To give them a break from everyday routine is, in itself, therapeutic.”

The pair pointed out that conducting morale events is only one part of the organization’s mission, and that its main thrust is providing compassionate aid for families facing dire needs for food, clothing, formula, diapers, gas, car repairs and other unexpected emergencies.

Nevertheless, they are prepared for baby showers and other opportunities that may come up all year around.

The volunteers serving tea were quick to give credit to area churches for their donations and assistance in putting the tea together, particularly because it followed on the heels of three other spring morale boosters.

SCMFO recently distributed 150 Easter baskets, staged a baby shower for 19 military wives and answered emergency requests of teachers by delivering critical school supplies to 32 classrooms at the on-base San Onofre school.

The tea was a labor of love, though, and the hosts were gratified that the unique charm of a tea party—California style, with iced tea replacing the hot stuff—was so enthusiastically embraced by the wives at San Onofre.

There were many stories among the guests themselves. Jennifer Johnson was celebrating her wedding anniversary with friends today because her Marine husband is deployed.

“Thank you so much for hosting the tea,” she said, hugging SCMFO board member Marian Fournier before leaving. “We loved it.”

Another Marine wife and former active duty Marine herself, Marisa Thresher, said she comforts military families in another way.

“I foster dogs of deployed service members while they are away. It gives us the fun of having a dog in the house, while helping Marine, Navy and Air Force members—we’re all one family.”

Jenna Lombardo, also a recently retired Marine—her husband is active—who writes the ladyleatherneck.com blog, saw the afternoon social as familiar territory.

“My overall goal with ladyleatherneck.com is to bring women together to empower each other … and learn from each other,” Lombardo said.

SCMFO was also happy to be able to bring the women together.

This may not have been an English high or low tea—although the volunteers included Theresa Lowe, originally from Great Britain, who made tea cakes for the event—but San Clemente Military Family Outreach likes to think of it as a “Semper Fideli-Tea.”

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