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How soldiers get help to stand on solid financial footing

Some National Guard units provide combat support, but there are some civilian heroes offering important financial support.

NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Members of the National Guard and Reserves straddle two worlds: the military way of life and the everyday life most people recognize. That means sometimes mundane things like doing taxes or basic financial planning can get complicated.

"Throughout the state, there are some soldiers that are in not the best areas, they don't have the best opportunities for jobs," said Capt. Isaiah Washington, the commanding officer for a support unit in the Arkansas Guard based at Camp Robinson.

The sign on his office door says he's the "Yellow Ribbon Coordinator."

"When soldiers deploy, I provide education and resource information for them before, during, and after the deployment," he said, drawing a comparison to human resources director, only for a very complicated company.

It's complicated because his unit has to help soldiers through the time between deployments or drill weekends. Civilians call that "modern life."

And like all of us, those times can sometimes be hard.

"There's a strain there," Capt. Washington said. "So whenever you're able to offer helpful services to minimize that burden, they're extremely grateful."

Services like those from Military Onesource and financial planners like Joanna Murray. She's as busy as any CPA during tax season, but you can tell her advice and direction comes from a different point of view.

Her office is adorned with items noting her time in the Marines as well as pictures and knickknacks from two generations of military men before her. 

She seems destined to know all the special breaks available to service members.

Those special breaks go beyond tax prep. It can involve debt restructuring or credit improvement because the whole unit knows financial trouble for one soldier can affect more than just one family.

"It can cost you your career," said Capt. Washington. "If you've made multiple poor choices, then you're not going to be trusted to maintain that security clearance because you're labeled as a threat."

In other words, good financial security makes for good unit security. Making these heroic pencil pushers as vital to the mission as sharpshooters and ground-pounders.

"After being war torn and just battle ridden, these services are necessary to maintain the force and keep people engaged and willing to be in serve their country," said Capt. Washington.

The number of programs has blown up in recent years, and the Guard has a mobile app available with connections to many of them. 

There's also a non-profit group called the National Guard Association of Arkansas that helps with loans and grants to get service members back on their feet as well as scholarships to members and their dependents.