Veteran’s Day was celebrated November 11 with the focus rightly on military veterans who have and are serving this country. As the war continues on multiple fronts, it has been become increasingly evident that attention must be paid to those “serving” on the home front, through continuing their family life and holding a place in the community for the soldiers deployed around the world. It is important to remember that the adolescent with a parent in military service has special needs and responses to the situation.
It is estimated that almost two million U.S. children have a parent in the military, and one in four is an adolescent. The US Army has established multiple services to try to meet the needs of children and adolescents with one or more enlisted family members. Operation: Military Kids (OMK) was officially launched in 2005 and has addressed the needs of over 88,000 children and adolescents and thousands of community members. As part of the 4-H/Army Youth Development Project, every state has a liaison that helps establish a force of community volunteers that provides support to kids and families in multiple ways. Agencies such as the American Legion and Boys & Girls Club, organize and provide activities and referral services to those in need. The website provides links to liaisons in every state and provides a place for the expression of love and pride for their family member in military service. One of the most interesting tributes was by two young adolescents who wrote and recorded a song about deployment called “The Price of Peace”. It can be seen at http://www.nationalguard.com/priceofpeace/.
More information about this important project is available at http://www.operationmilitarykids.org/public/home.aspx.
Researchers and therapists have paid attention to what assists adolescents with deployed or newly returned family members, as well. Psychologist Michelle Sherman, along with co-author DeAnn Sherman, has created four fictional teens, whose stories are based on actual cases from her Veteran’s Administration practice, and records their thoughts and emotions via blog sites. Her recently published book, “My Story, Blogs by Four Military Teens”, is part of a collection of books that deal all aspects of the effects of service life on children and adolescents. These books are available at http://www.seedsofhopebooks.com/index.html.
It is important to note that adolescents whose family member is deployed through the National Guard may not have as ready access to resources as those who are active-duty military. It was found that they have a higher sense of isolation and are less likely to seek support than those with ready military base access. Multiple deployments can also take its toll, so it is important to know whether this is the first or one of multiple separations for the family. One thing all of the children and adolescents involved in these multiple projects agreed upon though, is that one of the hardest things to cope with is hearing others make negative comments about the war their family member is engaged in. They also all agreed that feeling appreciated really helped them feel like it was worth what they had to go through. As this week of honoring passes, please remember to thank the families for their sacrifice, too, not just on Veteran’s Day, but every day.