Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Can You Hear the Children?

It's been four years; four long years for everyone. The war that was only supposed to last a year has dragged on and every soldier that is deployed leaves a gaping hole behind. It's especially hard on the kids who are left trying to make sense of it all. And for more than 1,200 kids, their parents will never come home. "About 39 percent (more than 469,999) of the children of deployed parents are age 1 and under, 33 percent (more than 400,000) are between the ages of 6 and 11, and about 25 percent (more than 300,000) are between the ages of 12 and 18," a Virgina Tech study concluded. Most of the kids in the study (between the ages of 12 and 18) said that they hid their emotion, but “lashed out” at people about things they normally wouldn't have. And while some teens said that their grades were going down because of all the stress they had, other teens actually improved. In another split result, some teens said that the relationship with a home parent got worse, but others claimed they became closer. “…when he’s not there, everything is looser,” said a 13-year-old girl. “Like you know, I’ll do my homework maybe after I eat dinner and stuff. And like maybe I’ll just do things in a little different order when I’m around my mom.” It seems that there isn't just one formula on how the deployment of a parent will affect the family.

However, it was pretty conclusive that the older sibling felt they had to be "the strong one" in the family. In many of the cases they matured quickly and took on more responsibilities. “I was always, always, always the last person to go to sleep,” said Garrett Schlobohm, 17, “I always made sure everything was shut, let the dog out, tried to take care of everybody pretty much. So I think when my dad was gone, I kind of tried to take over his role.”

Now, camps and support groups are springing up virtually everywhere for teens and kids in this situation. If any of you out there have parents in Iraq, it might be a good idea to go to one of these programs just to try it out. Friends and family can be a great resource, but sometimes it's good to have others your age who know what you're going through. For anyone one who has a friend who's parent is in Iraq, try to be understanding. Be the support link and let them know you'll be there; for the good and the bad.

One teen said, “At first when my dad got deployed there was a lot of support … like people calling, people giving us, you know, food and stuff. But then as time went on, it just kind of died down and nobody really cared that he was deployed.” We can't let them forget that we care.

Voices of Children
(While I can write about girls and boys who have parents in Iraq, I have never experienced it. I think they can say it much better than I ever could.)

  • "I felt really sad when my dad left because I knew that a lot of people had already gotten killed in Iraq," said Sierra Kelley, 11. "I'm like, 'Oh my gosh, he's going to get killed.'”

  • One 17-year-old boy said, “When my dad left, I stayed separate from the family. I would really keep to myself. …my mom and my sister were constantly crying and stuff so I was always trying to comfort them. And I couldn't show any emotion … because I had to be the strong one.”

  • “…my mom acts different, too, when my dad’s gone. It’s like she’s not her normal self,” said one 14-year-old boy. “She’s kind of like stressed out and stuff. And her [being] stressed out affects me, too …”

  • "I don't want to be a daddy because daddies die," said four-year-old Jack Shanaberger.

  • "Did Dad love his soldiers more than he loved us?"- Richard Marshall, 16.

  • “(Mom) came to Ramstein to visit me and we went to restaurants, shopping, and just hung out together relaxing,” said Sal Russo, “We cooked, laughed, watched movies, and called family back in the states. She even helped me with a Business writing course I was taking.”

Find out what the Pentagon is now doing for families.

"America’s Military Kids Are Latest Collateral Damage "- an article from the Women's Media Center.

To everyone who's parent(s) has been deployed, just know that we think of you and hope.

Peace, friends.


Anonymous said...

I think that this is so sad. I mean, I think my dad is a huge part of my life and I really don't think I could survive without my dad. So if there was any way that I could show that I care to those kids, I would do it.

New Moon said...

This is a great post, Kelly. It really is important that we keep the families who are continually affected by the war in our hearts.