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Through Military Charity, Francona's Family Still Tied To The Sox03:54
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In this file image, former Boston Red Sox manager Terry Francona, center, smiles and waves as he walks down the red carpet with his wife Jacque, left. (AP)
In this file image, former Boston Red Sox manager Terry Francona, center, smiles and waves as he walks down the red carpet with his wife Jacque, left. (AP)

While the Red Sox baseball era may be over for former manager Terry Francona, there is a cause tied to the team that's still very close to his family.

Jacque Francona, 'Tito's' wife, remains involved with Home Base, a Red Sox Foundation program that helps military families and their loved ones serving overseas.

This fall, Jacque has had a lot more than baseball on her mind.

"I am here as a mother of a son that is in active duty serving as a Marine, and also a mother-in-law of a Marine who is also deployed to Afghanistan," she said.

"I, like all the other parents out there who've had someone serve in harm's way, have experienced a range of emotions."

Jacque Francona, wife of former Sox Manager Terry Francona

Jacque's only son, Nick, returned just last week from a seven-month stint in Afghanistan, where he commanded a sniper platoon.

Francona's son-in-law, Michael Rice — who is with a Marine unit dismantling bombs — won't be returning to the U.S. until early next year.

"I, like all the other parents out there who've had someone serve in harm's way, have experienced a range of emotions," she said.

A range of emotions Francona shared Wednesday at a conference of more than 100 school nurses from around New England.

"We're what's termed a 'suddenly military family.' We didn't really have any experience — other family members serving — until our son decided in the spring of his senior year of college that he wanted to do some military service. So we were quickly indoctrinated into the military culture. It was a big learning experience," Jacque said.

The conference at Northeastern University is part of Francona's volunteer work with Home Base, a nonprofit partnership between the Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital. Home Base provides care for U.S. troops and their families affected by the so-called "invisible wounds of war," including post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries.

"I think we all need to be appreciative of the different stresses that we've asked them to bear again and again and again," said Kathy Clair-Hayes, the director of family outreach for Home Base.

The Massachusetts General Hospital social worker said it's crucial to raise awareness.

"We've been at war 10 years and only 1 percent of our population serves in the military. So it's a very small group that are actually bearing the brunt of these particular deployments, these particular conflicts," Clair-Hayes said.

"The stats are telling us that about one-third of those who serve in Iraq and Afghanistan are returning with the diagnosis of traumatic brain injury or post-traumatic stress disorder."

According to Clair-Hayes, in Massachusetts there are 13,000 children who have parents serving overseas, and school nurses are in the best position to identify the kids early on.

"So by having more of the first responders in the lives of children aware of these stresses and aware of the things people are coping with, that they can actually be those people to make sure people are getting the help they need, the support they need, and the thank you for the service they've done to our country," she said.

Home Base grew out of a Red Sox team visit to wounded veterans at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington after the Sox won the 2007 World Series.

Jacque has been involved in Home Base from the start.

"Prior to Nick being deployed I think I was like most of us, the conflicts are a little sanitized for us. And the only access to information is through the media.

"I think the one thing that's universal is that as parents we worry about our children and want the best for them. So I think that that transcends your position in life, or where you live, or any of that, we all want the same things for our children."

And Jacque sais that means if her youngest daughter, who is a high school senior and has an interest in a military career, decides to follow through, she's all for it.

This program aired on November 3, 2011.

Delores Handy Twitter Reporter
Delores Handy was formerly a host and reporter at WBUR.

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