03 April 2011

Month of the Military Child

By Elaine Wilson, AFPS
March 31, 2010

Military children often are referred to as “unsung heroes,” but, in honor of April’s Month of the Military Child, I’d like to take some time to sing their praises.
Their challenges are all-too familiar: moving frequently and adjusting to being separated from a parent that goes off to training or gets deployed.

An official recently told me that military children, on average, will attend six to nine schools over the course of a parent’s military career. That’s a lot of first-day-of-school stress to handle.
These challenges aren’t new, and certainly aren’t easy. But I never cease to be impressed by our military children’s ability to adapt and cope.

As an airman and then a Defense Department civilian, I have met some amazing military children from all walks of life – active and reserve, younger and older, from all of the service branches. They all impressed me with their ability to adapt and drive on.

I’ll never forget their names, even though the memories of their faces have faded with time.
Names like Timothy Donovan, the son of Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Tim Donovan and wife, Paula, who I met at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., last fall. Timothy was born with a group of birth defects that can cause health issues ranging from cardiac problems to limb abnormalities, and also was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at age 1. At 7 years old, he already has undergone an unbelievable 21 surgeries.
But Timothy was all smiles when I met him for the first time. I was interviewing Timothy and his mother for a story about how the Defense Department was revamping its playgrounds for special-needs children, an effort spurred on mostly by Paula.
Paula told me about how Timothy underwent multiple, painful procedures to fix his club feet so he could wear shoes. He was in casts for 20 weeks, but he got his wish and wore shoes on his 7th birthday.
When I met him, he wasn’t focused on his difficulties; he was excited to have a new playground to play on. “I can’t wait,” he said to me in his soft voice.
Names like Matt Newcomer, who was a high school senior when I met him in Texas several years ago. His father was about to miss his prom and graduation, but he was taking it all in stride.
“He loves to be a soldier, and if it makes him happy, it makes me happy,” Matt told me. “How can I possibly complain that he’s not watching me graduate when he’s out there sacrificing for our nation?”
Timothy and Matt’s positive attitude and strength serve as an example to us all.

I hope we don’t forget that our military children are undergoing great challenges each day. Their parents are deploying into combat and may return home with visible or invisible wounds of war. We all must be mindful of what these children are going through, particularly since multiple deployments are now normal.

Military children need every American’s support, whether it’s a kind ear or just a shoulder to lean on.
I know you all know military children. Take time to talk to them, find out if there’s anything you can do to help them. As the saying goes, “It takes a village to raise a child.” If each of us starts in our own “village,” we can make a significant headway in caring for all military children. I can’t think of more deserving recipients of our support.

Posted in Family Matters.

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