We worry about what a child will become tomorrow, yet we forget that he is someone today.
April is the Month of the Military Child. Deployments and serving in the military is tough on the servicemember and the spouse, but it’s equally as hard (if not harder) on the servicemember’s children. Military children often need more support than a civilian child, especially during deployments.
This month, to honor our military children, I’m dedicating each Monday to Month of the Military Child. Since we don’t have children, I’ve asked a few guests to blog about their experiences with military children and provide some insight into how we can help these children excel during what may be the toughest time of their young lives.
My first guest post is about a fantastic organization called Operation: Military Kids.
Hi, I’m Pamela, Navy wife, mother of a teenage daughter, and you can read more in the About Me section of my blog, When Good People Get Together. Today my focus is not on me, but on military children. I was a military child for thirteen years, and now my daughter is entering her seventeenth year of the military lifestyle. It’s been an adventure and a challenge.
Did you know that military children are considered a special needs category in the same way that children who have physical, emotional, or developmental disabilities are considered special needs? Military children can suffer from emotional challenges due the deployment of one or both parents. Military children experience all the trauma of separation but much more intensely because they are children. I’d like to introduce you to an awesome program, Operation: Military Kids, which provides programs and activities for military children to help them cope with and adjust to the upheavals associated with deployment.
Operation: Military Kids is the U.S. Army’s collaborative effort with America’s communities to support children and youth impacted by deployment. Regardless of whether families are experiencing deployment for the first time, the second time or another in a series of multiple deployments, OMK’s goal is to connect military children and youth with local resources in order to achieve a sense of community support and enhance their well-being. (Source: http://www.operationmilitarykids.org)
OMK is a partnership between Army Child and Youth Services and the USDA/4-H Headquarters. Army Child and Youth Services funnel funds down to each Land Grand State University into the 4-H programs in each state. They knew they had to get into the civilian communities to get support to military youth and families wherever they live, because after 9/11, they found that the ensuing war was being fought by tons of Guard and Reserve members, all of whom left families behind in civilian communities, not on the big military bases. So, Army Child and Youth Services searched around for an organization with state-by-state coverage and presto!! 4-H was the perfect fit. They realized that the Cooperative Extensions (the Cooperative Extension at each state University is the headquarters of each state’s 4-H program nationwide) were the perfect partners to get resources and support out to military kids and families in every community in the country. After all, the 4-H system reaches even the most remote parts of the country, so no matter where military families live; there is a County Agent and a 4-H club nearby.
My daughter and I became involved with Operation: Military Kids as a part of our 4-H club’s community service efforts. We first got involved at the ground level – the preparation of Hero Packs. Hero Packs are backpacks full of items to keep children occupied in the initial deployment period, and then to keep them connected to their deployed parent after that. The backpacks include fun items like card games, Frisbees, and small toys, communication tools like writing paper, note cards and a journal, and support materials from local organizations that specialize in fun programs and events for kids. As we were putting the backpacks together, we did an exercise that helped demonstrate what military children miss when their parent deploys. In a yearlong deployment, the parent is absent from every holiday, birthday, school concert, and graduation, and for our 4-H members, from every horse or dog show, every award banquet, every field trip. Our club was privileged to attend a Yellow Ribbon Night event, where parents received final pre-deployment details and the backpacks were handed out to the children. My daughter is the only military child in her 4-H club, so the others were able to meet other military children and gain a better understanding for what it must be like to be separated from one or both parents for a lengthy period.
Operation: Military Kids provides a myriad of fun and low-cost programs and activities for military children. There are events, workshops, day and family camps going on throughout the year. In addition, Operation: Military Kids provides workshops for educators and teens to help them communicate the effects of deployment on children. I encourage you to check out Operation: Military Kids in your state.
Next week: Reserve military children and some ideas and organizations to help those kids who generally only deal with the military when mommy or daddy is deployed.