From the White House Blog, April 2010:
April is Month of the Military Child and gives the nation the opportunity to recognize the character, strength and sacrifices of America's military children as well as the role they play in the armed forces community. Today, there are 1.7 million American children and youth under 18-years-old with a parent serving in the military and approximately 900,000 children and youth with one or both parents deployed multiple times.
This month, by focusing on military children, the MCM hope to share the diversity of our military community so that you can understand just a little more about our culture. We hope to show you that we are more than conservative, right wing, ultra religious Christians proselytising in the hallways of the Air Force Academy or holding religious concerts at Fort Bragg. No single diary can speak for us because we aren't stereotypes, though the mainstream media and those on the extremes of both political wings do their best to describe us in those terms.
Here at DailyKos, we hope to see multiple diaries published about, by and/or for military children for the entire month of April. We'll start with today's diary - a hodgepodge of facts and information about and for military kids... feel free to add some of your own in the comments.
As a good military wife, let me start with the official, government page:
Some of us at DailyKos are raising military children - we chose the military as a career or married someone who did and had kids. I know that my two boys have offered to contribute a diary apiece, published on my page, for later this month. Hopefully, we will get a few other kids to chime in about their experiences as well. I would love to know what current day military kids, other than my own, are thinking.
If you would like to read the words of some military children about deployment and how they deal with it, Like It For Time has a great interview published on their website. Here is a taste:
LIFT: What happens differently at home when he’s away?
E: We aren’t able to cook on the grill, and that is one of my favorite things to do with my Dad. We aren’t able to go out and do some things, cause like the little kids can’t do them and Mom can’t take us all by ourselves. Like going to see certain movies.
J: So, we can’t do as many things because there aren’t two grown-ups. Like if my sister is sick and we want to go out and do something we can’t do it and we all have to stay home.
You might think these kids have it good - that their biggest complaint is being without a second parent. Millions of kids in the US have only a single parent. Millions of kids have a life that is worse than a military kid. We know that. My point isn't to whine and complain for these kids, it's to show you the impact of our choice to go to war. These kids are losing a parent, some of them permanently, not because mom or dad chose to go it alone to raise a child or to divorce but because our government went to war. We are all a part of that decision, whether we agree with it or not.
Our Military Kids also shares some personal stories about military kids through the eyes of their parents. The organization provides additional help to deployed families. If you go to the site to read the stories, you'll notice a common theme - that deployment is a financially stressful time for families and the grants given by this non-profit help kids maintain a more normal life.
Operation Military Kids is an Army program that:
connect[s] military children and youth with local resources in order to achieve a sense of community support and enhance their well-being.
Multiple moves and multiple deployments make it hard for many kids to maintain a 'normal' life, whatever that might entail. For most kids, normality comes when mom and dad are content, when they have friends to hang out with, and when they feel safe. Programs that help support the family by providing good local resources are a boon. They don't exist in every town - do you know what is being offered for military families in your neck of the woods? Remember, Reserve and Guard families live EVERYWHERE - not just near military bases and they need help too.
My favorite program is called Operation Purple.
The mission of the Operation Purple program is to empower military children and their families to develop and maintain healthy and connected relationships, in spite of the current military environment. We do this through a variety of means, including the healing and holistic aspect of the natural world. The program is joint or "purple"— and open to children and families of active duty, National Guard or Reserve service members from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, or the Commissioned Corps of the US Public Health Service and NOAA.
Several organizations, including the Sierra Club, work with Operation Purple to provide outdoor opportunities for kids. The reason I like the program so much is that it takes a stereotypical 'left wing' organization and a stereotypical 'right wing' audience and puts them together. Both sides get to learn from the experience - the Sierra Club members learn that military kids don't all come branded as right wing conservatives and religious zealots and military kids learn that Sierra Club members are not all granola eating, tree hugging, hippies. If only more of our nation could experience this meeting of the minds!
We often hear that military kids don't choose this way of life. That's true. But no kid chooses the life they have. Kids are at the whim of their parents and, as parents, most of us do the damned best job we can to make sure they are happy, they are healthy, and that they have hope. As parents in the military are under increasing pressure from the hours spent supporting the wars at home and from deployments, it is ever more important that the outside community come together to find way to help support us.
I'm lucky here to have you at DailyKos as part of my community, part of my support system. I'm asking a favor of you. Could you find the time, sometime this month, to research a little about military children? Could you find one organization that helps military kids and write a diary? Or do you know a military kid that you could interview? Are you a military brat and have a story to tell? Help me tell this story.
We have a much stronger story to tell when we tell it together.