What Americans Need To Know About Military Kids

Military kids are amazing… I hope you’ll enjoy this post from THEIR point of view.

Action Speaks-Voices of Operation Homefront

As we wrap up the Month of the Military Child, we asked the past winners of our Military Child of the Year award what they want Americans to know about military kids. Nine out of 17 of our past recipients provided input for this blog. They brought us up to date on where they’ve been — and where they’re headed — and they STILL continue to inspire us!

Now, in their own words…

operation-homefront-blog-kids-1“Military kids are little warriors themselves. Many have to move multiple times and start over in new schools and towns, make new friends constantly (a scary thought for those in middle school), and send their fathers and mothers off to war. That being said, military kids are not to be underestimated. Military kids are outgoing, resilient, creative, and strong. The hardships and the sacrifices that comes with being part of a military family only makes us that…

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A Wall Full of Heroes

Yes, we've got some Heroes at our school!

Yes, we’ve got some Heroes at our school!

Alert! Alert! Our elementary school is filled with Heroes! And this banner on the wall is proof of it!

When Mother Goose first approached Whittier Elementary School principal, Carol Young, with the project shown above, we were both thinking that we might end of with two, maybe three pictures on the wall. What a wonderful surprise to learn of so many families in our school with military connections!

We have students with sailors, airmen, and Army soldiers in their immediate and extended families! We have men and women stationed around the world, even in Afghanistan! We have officers and military police within our Whittier ranks!

It just fills Mother Goose with pride to see the families represented around about this banner, and what a great reminder that America is strongly defended by service members from our own neighborhoods and communities.

Operation Military Kids is a nationwide organization that provides support and fun events for kids who have moms and dads, brothers and sisters serving America. Some of our military kids live on military bases, but in Illinois most of our families live in “regular” or civilian-type communities, just like Oak Park. Often these kids experience some of the same feelings of fear, sadness, worry, and expectant joy at the return of their deployed family members but without the support that is available on a military base.

These kids might not even know of another military kid in their school.

And that’s why we hung this Wall of Heroes banner in our school — to show the students, the teachers and the staff that we have Heroes amongst us. Hip hip hooray for military kids! And don’t forget April is the month of the military child! If you know one, give ’em a hug from Mother Goose today!

Three cheers for the Heroes in our neighborhoods and around the world!

Three cheers for the Heroes in our neighborhoods and around the world!

A Yellow Ribbon Event for Military Kids

This past Saturday, Mother Goose had the special honor of attending a Yellow Ribbon Event in the Chicagoland area. A Yellow Ribbon Event is organized by our Illinois National Guard as part of its Welcome Home process for soldiers who will soon be returning from a deployment and reuniting with their families.

Three National Guard units from our area will be coming back from faraway places next month. This day long event included briefings for spouses and adult family members as well as games and projects for the military kiddos, sons and daughters of those deployed service members.

These twenty kids are so amazing! I was thrilled to spend the day with them! Most of their dads have been deployed for about a year, but there was one brother and sister whose DAD AND MOM have been serving overseas for the past twelve months. Mother Goose can only stand with her beak hanging open, saying “Wow…”

We played some fun games with balloons to talk a bit about stress — ALL kids love balloons, and all kids know about stress. There was much discussion about feelings and how it’s OK to feel scared, worried, sad and happy all at the same time.

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Some furry, four-footed and friendly visitors came by to see the kids. These dogs, associated with Rainbow Animal Assisted Therapy, work every week at hospitals and schools. We were delighted to have some quality time with Bella, Bruce, Yankee Doodle and Talla.

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This sweet little dog is named "Bruce".  He's kind and gentle and funny.

This sweet little dog is named “Bruce”. He’s kind and gentle and funny.

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Another of our speakers for the day was a man from MFLC (Military & Family Life Counseling) who presented to the kids a power point about managing their money, avoiding credit cards and the importance of saving money. Mother Goose learned MUCH from that session and the kids did too. They had some very insightful questions for the financial gentleman.

Unfortunately, the woman from the Red Cross (who was going to share about water safety plans) was involved in a car accident on her way to the venue and was not able to meet with us. Mother Goose was glad to know that she was OK.

One of our final activities was coloring and decorating masks. The outside of the mask was to show Dad (or Mom) how the kids might have changed during their absence. On the inside of the mask the kids drew or wrote some aspects of themselves that they were not quite ready to share with their returning parent.

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Mother Goose got to spend some beautiful time with each of the youngsters who ranged in age from six up to seventeen. All of them were polite and friendly, easy-going, hopeful and happy, proud and strong. I think the word “resilient” is overused in describing military kids so I will not use it in this context. However, I WILL say that these amazing kids are springy, elastic and flexible which basically means about the same thing. Perhaps they are even a bit rubbery though not as rubbery as the feet of Mother Goose.

God bless our military families and especially these great children!

Purple Up!

(A bit of poetry to honor our military kids, from Mother Goose with love.)

Those military kids are so courageous
The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree
Their dads and moms serving America
So brave, they protect us, keep us free.

Those military kids are so resilient
They recover when the going get rough
Adjusting to new schools, new towns, new homes
Bouncing back sometimes feels so tough.

Those military kids, they know about stress
Parents being deployed overseas
Praying they come back all in one piece
Jesus, take care of them please.

April’s the Month of the Military Child
On the fifteenth find something to wear
Mixing the colors of all the branches
And wear purple to show them you care.

Purple Up graphic

Military Kids, Moving and How Schools Can Help

Mother Goose was running through the puddles this morning and found this really helpful article about how schools can help military kids with the major transitions involved in frequent moves. I hope that you enjoy it:

http://blog.militaryfamily.org/2013/04/08/helping-military-kids-transition-the-role-schools-and-educators-play/comment-page-1/#comment-2767

Teachers and schools can make a smooth transition for moving military kids.

Teachers and schools can make a smooth transition for moving military kids.

A huge salute to our teachers, principals and schools who help make the move easier on the kiddos. THANK YOU!

A Double Salute: To Teens and Operation Military Kids

Mother Goose is happy to perform a double salute today!

First of all, I salute the Junior ROTC students at Benito Juarez Community Academy in the city of Chicago for purchasing and packing “Family Packs” for families who are going through the “reintegration phase” of the military deployment cycle.

These teens, mostly from the Pilsen and “back of the yards” neighborhoods, were kind enough to think of others and then do something about it. Families who have a mom or dad serving in the Illinois National Guard experience stress on many levels and at different times during deployment. The children in these families know so well that life in their family is different than it used to be before the parent left for Afghanistan.

These Family Packs are equipped with fun art supplies, games and books for families to enjoy together and get to know one another all over again.

Hip hip hooray for the students at Benito Juarez! I salute you and thank you from the bottom of my feathery old heart!

This was a fun activity to demonstrate how a community is affected by neighbors deployed, and how the other people in the community have to work together to keep the kids safe and supported.

This was a fun activity to demonstrate how a community is affected by neighbors deployed, and how the other people in the community have to work together to keep the kids safe and supported.

Secondly, I would like to recognize and salute the organization who will deliver these Family Packs to the actual families for whom they are intended. Operation Military Kids is a nationwide military family support not-for-profit group which conducts many, many wonderful activities to help families through these times of crisis.

Yesterday, Mother Goose was honored to meet two key women who work with Operation Military Kids right here in Illinois: Linda Kupferschmid and Christie Weiss. These ladies traveled many hundreds of miles from Springfield and Champaign, Illinois to receive these Family Packs as well as to present the special purpose of Operation Military Kids and the four phases of the deployment cycle to three different JROTC classes at the high school.

LInda explains and describes the Wall of Heroes project to the JROTC students.

LInda explains and describes the Wall of Heroes project to the JROTC students.

Talk about devotion and dedication to a very important cause!

I would like to add right here and now that Mrs. Weiss is a military spouse and mom — her husband served in Afghanistan with the Illinois National Guard in 2008, a very dangerous time to be deployed. In fact, his unit suffered extreme casualties — they lost 18 men during the twelve months in which they were deployed. Thankfully, Christie’s husband came home safe and sound. God bless those families and let’s always remember to pray for the Gold Star Families in our country.

Remember April is The Month of the Military Child, and Mother Goose is excited to announce that next Monday, April 15th is Purple Up Day — a day to wear purple in support of children of servicemembers in all branches of the military. Don’t forget to get your Purple Up, folks!

Job well done!  Mother Goose salutes Linda K. and Christie W. from OMK.

Job well done! Mother Goose salutes Linda K. and Christie W. from OMK.

A Guest Post from a Military Kid!

Guest Post: The best thing about being a military kid!

What’s the best thing about being a military kid? Some might say seeing new places, some might say making new friends, and some might even say learning new languages and cultures, but for me, the best thing about being a military kid is the person I have become along the way.

In September 2012, I joined a boys’ soccer team here in Italy, where we live now. At that time, I was the only girl and only American on the team. You might be thinking that this has nothing to do with being a military kid, but it does. In ten years, I have moved six times, attended five schools, been without my dad for months at a time and joined countless sports teams.

Delaney Edger, ten years old,  The Girl in Front

Delaney Edger, ten years old, The Girl in Front

When I was younger, I was very shy and dreaded moving because it meant that everything was going to change. Each time, I gained a little more self-confidence. I joined sports teams and attended camps and activities to help me make friends at each new place. I actually started to look forward to moving without being scared.

I now try to take advantage of every opportunity that our new home offers. I have even run in a few 5K races here in Italy. Being a military kid has made me stronger and more outgoing. I look for challenges and I try to always be the best I can be.

I have played soccer for seven years and I am really appreciative to be playing on the boys’ team. Even though I get a little nervous sometimes, I would’ve never had the courage to go play on a team where I can’t speak or understand the language. I really love soccer and don’t know what I would do without it. Being a military kid has given me more courage, so that I could be brave enough to play.

My Army life has taught me to adapt to new situations, to be kind and understanding, to be brave, and to never give up when things get hard. I believe that all of the things I have been through as a military kid have made me strong and brave. I am proud to be a military kid and I look forward to the next opportunity the Army has for me and my family.

Posted by Delaney Edger, age 10, military child

April Is The Month of the Military Child

Join Mother Goose and company as we celebrate the resiliency and strength of military kids for the whole month of April! Since its original proclamation in 1986 by Defense Secretary Casper Weinberger, The Month of the Military Child has been recognized as a time to support the kiddos of American military families who endure much in the name of freedom.

month of the military child

No other population group in our country moves as frequently as the military family. Changing schools and churches, saying “goodbye” to friends, packing up their stuff and heading down the road to Dad or Mom’s next army post, navy port station or Marine base. For all outward appearances, these kids seem flexible and adjustable, but trust me, they are feeling the stress of moving just like everybody else.

And it’s not just the relocation stress that gets to them sometimes. There are kids with dads or moms who have been deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan or some other place on the other side of the world. There’s sadness, anger, confusion, and fear associated with these deployment cycles.

Plus there’s just life in general that sometimes comes barreling into a child’s life. Who doesn’t get that?

For the month of April, Mother Goose has some very interesting stories in the works! We will be interviewing REAL military children about their hopes and dreams, their challenges and their victories. There are many projects in the works that show support of these kiddos, and Mother Goose will be there to get all the good stuff and share their stories!

A School Principal in California Focuses on Military Kids

The following report relating to the conception, design and execution of a special program for military family students attending the Susan La Vorgna Elementary School in Winchester, California  was prepared by Jona A. Hazlett, Principal of the school for the benefit of other school principals interesting in supporting similarly situated children withing their schools.

Any questions regarding the article may be forwarded to Russ Hopkins, National Military Family Association – Illinois at ndbluestarplatoon@aol.com or by calling 847 971 1551

Schools are the perfect place for military kids to get connected.

Schools are the perfect place for military kids to get connected.

SUPPORTING OUR MILITARY KIDS IN OUR SCHOOLS

by Jona A. Hazlett

PRINCIPALS ARE EXPECTED TO BE AWARE OF AND MONITOR THE PROGRESS OF MANY SIGNIFICANT STUDENT POPULATIONS. THE USUAL MAJOR SUBGROUPS INCLUDE, ENGLISH LEARNERS, GIFTED AND TALENTED STUDENTS, THOSE WHO ARE ACADEMICALLY AT RISK, AND THE SOCIALLY DISADVANTAGED. SIX YEARS AGO, I  RECOGNIZED ANOTHER SIGNIFICANT SUBGROUP AT MY SCHOOL, STUDENTS FROM MILITARY FAMILIES.

TEMECULA VALLEY IS LOCATED HALF WAY BETWEEN LOS ANGELES AND SAN DIEGO. BECAUSE OF THE AFFORD ABLE COST OF LIVING IN THIS VALLEY, MANY MILITARY FAMILIES CHOOSE TO PURCHASE HOMES HERE, EVEN THOUGH IT IS APPROXIMATELY ONE HOUR FROM THE NEAREST MILITARY BASE. THERE WERE A GROWING NUMBER OF MILITARY FAMILIES MOVING TO TEMECULA, AND SPECIFICALLY, STUDENTS ENROLLING IN MY SCHOOL.

THERE ARE TWO REASONS THAT I CHOSE TO FOCUS ON THIS GROUP OF INDIVIDUALS. MILITARY BASES HAVE COMPREHENSIVE SUPPORT SYSTEMS FOR FAMILIES WHO LIVE ON BASE, BUT MY MILITARY FAMILIES WERE SCATTERED THROUGHOUT CIVILIAN NEIGHBORHOODS. IN ADDITION,AS I DEALT WITH STUDENTS WITH DISCIPLINE AND/OR ACADEMIC ISSUES, I FOUND THAT MANY OF THEM HAD A DEPLOYED PARENT IN THE MILITARY. I DECIDED TO DEVELOP A MILITARY FAMILY SUPPORT NETWORK AT THE SCHOOL SITE.

IN ADDITION TO THOSE STUDENTS WITH A PARENT AFFILIATED WITH THE MAJOR BASE NOTED, THERE ARE OTHER CHILDREN,,PARTICULARLY THOSE FROM RESERVE OR NATIONAL GUARD FAMILIES, WHO ARE EVEN MORE DETACHED FROM A SOLID BASE OF SUPPORT AND FIND THEMSELVES EVEN MORE ISOLATED FROM THOSE WHO SHARE A COMMON BOND.

THE GOALS OF THE PROGRAM ARE:
* TO PROVIDE A LOCAL SUPPORT NETWORK THAT RESEMBLES THOSE ON MILITARY BASES
* TO ASSIST LOCAL MILITARY FAMILIES IN FINDING SERVICES/RESOURCES
* TO PREPARE FOR STUDENT/FAMILY NEEDS WHEN A PARENT IS DEPLOYED
* TO ASSIST STAFF IN UNDERSTANDING/DEALING WITH ISSUES FACING MILITARY STUDENTS

THE PROGRAM COMPONENTS INCLUDE;
* A SURVEY OF MILITARY FAMILIES (INFORMATION AND NEEDS)
* A NETWORKING DIRECTORY OF MILITARY FAMILIES WITH STUDENTS IN OUR SCHOOL
* A MONTHLY LUNCH FOR MILITARY FAMILY STUDENTS WITH THE PRINCIPAL
* PROFESSIONAL GUEST SPEAKERS
* RECREATIONAL EVENTS AND TRIPS
* STAFF DEVELOPMENT FOR TEACHERS
* REGULAR EVALUATION OF PROGRAM SUCCESS

I STARTED BY IDENTIFYING THE COMMON PROBLEMS FACING MILITARY FAMILIES. FOR THE CHILDREN AT SCHOOL;
* DISCIPLINE ISSUES
* FREQUENT MOVES LEADING TO:
DIFFICULTY MAKING FRIENDS
CATCHING UP WITH SCHOOL WORK
ADJUSTMENT ISSUES
* FEAR OF THE UNKNOWN

FOR THE DEPLOYED PARENT:
*MISSING OUT ON MILESTONE EVENTS
*PERCEIVED LOSS OF PARENTING POWER
*LONELINESS

FOR THE PARENTS AT HOME;

*”SINGLE PARENTING’ ISSUES
* DISCIPLINING
* FINANCIAL IMPLICATIONS
*LONELINESS

*DISTANCE FROM RESOURCES
* MEDICAL FACILITIES
*COMMISSARY
*OTHER MILITARY FAMILIES
*SUPPORT GROUPS

FOR THE TEACHER;
* UNDERSTANDING THE STUDENT FROM A MILITARY FAMILY
* PREPARING FOR DEPLOYMENT ISSUES
* DEALING WITH DISCIPLINE ISSUES
* DEALING WITH EMOTIONAL ISSUES

IT SHOULD BE MENTIONED THAT DIFFICULTIES ASSOCIATED WITH MILITARY SERVICE THAT IMPACT FAMILIES AND STUDENTS ARE NOT STRICTLY RELATED TO THE SERVICE MEMBER BEING DEPLOYED. MANY STRESS FACTORS OCCUR PRIOR TO A DEPLOYMENT AND ESPECIALLY AFTERWARDS AS A RESULT OF PHYSICAL, MENTAL, AND EMOTIONAL INJURIES INCURRED.

AFTER IDENTIFYING THESE KEY ISSUES, I INITIATED A PLAN FOR ADDRESSING THEM. AFTER SURVEYING THE STUDENTS AT REGISTRATION, TO IDENTIFY MY MILITARY FAMILIES, I HAD THE OFFICE STAFF “TAG”  THE STUDENTS WITH AN “M” IN THE DISTRICT DATABASE. I PUT TOGETHER A DIRECTORY FOR THE FAMILIES, WITH ALL OF THEIR PERSONAL INFORMATION.(THE DIRECTORY INFORMATION WAS VOLUNTARY AND WAS ONLY DISTRIBUTED TO THE MILITARY FAMILIES WHO WANTED TO PARTICIPATE.i WAS SURPRISED TO SEE HOW BENEFICIAL THIS REALLY WAS, AS PARENTS “FOUND” AND CONNECTED WITH EACH OTHER, EVEN ESTABLISHING CARPOOLS FOR GETTING TO WORK.

ONE OF MY TEACHERS HAS A HUSBAND IN THE ARMED FORCES, AND SHE WAS ABLE TO PULL TOGETHER RESOURCES FROM CAMP PENDELTON, AND WE HELD OUR FIRST MILITARY FAMILY FAIR. IT WAS HELD AT NIGN, ON CAMPUS, AND REPRESENTATIVES SET UP BOOTHS FOR FAMILIES TO VISIT. EVERYTHING FROM MEDICAL INSURANCE, TO COUNSELING SERVICE, TO THE RED CROSS, ETC.

THOUGH ALL OF THESE THINGS HAVE BEEN HELPFUL, THE EASIEST AND MOST EFFECTIVE ACTIVITY HAS BEEN THE MONTHLY MILITARY FAMILY STUDENT LUNCHES. WE TURNED A SPARE CLASSROOM INTO A MILITARY SUPPORT ROOM, DECORATED WITH DONATED MILITARY PARAPHERNALIA AND PLENTY OF POSTER PAPER AND PAINT.THE STUDENTS ARE INVITED TO LUNCH EACH MONTH, DURING THEIR REGULAR LUNCH TIME TO EAT WITH THE PRINCIPAL AND SOMETIMES OTHER GUESTS INCLUDING THE SUPERINTENDENT  AND “ABRAHAM LINCOLN.”

WHEN THE STUDENTS FIRST CAME, THEY WENT AROUND THE ROOM AND TOLD THE GROUP WHO WAS IN THE MILITARY AND WHAT BRANCH THEY WERE IN. WHAT FUN TO WATCH THE KIDS SAY,”HEY, MY DAD IS IN THE NAVY TOO!” THIS HELPED THE CHILDREN TO SEE THAT THEY WERE NOT THE ONLY ONES, AND THEY BEGAN TO MAKE CONNECTIONS WITH STUDENTS AT THEIR GRADE LEVEL, AT RECESS AND LUNCH.

EACH MONTH, WHEN WE HAVE THE ORGANIZED LUNCHEONS, THE STUDENTS HAVE THEIR OWN DISCUSSIONS. THEY TALK ABOUT PARENTS COMING BACK OR SHIPPING OUT. THEY CONSOLE EACH OTHER, OR OFFER EACH OTHER ADVICE. THEY CAN MAKE BANNERS FOR PARENTS WHO ARE COMING HOME, WRITE LETTERS, OR CONSTRUCT CARE PACKAGERS WHILE THEY ARE THERE. THE MAIN THING IS THAT THIS GROUP OF STUDENTS FEELS SPECIAL. YOU’D BE SURPRISED AT HOW MANY STUDENTS TRY TO SNEAK INTO THE GROUP BY PRETENDING THAT THEY ARE FROM A MILITARY FAMILY.

WE ALSO TO SCHOOL WIDE EVENTS SUCH AS MATCHBOX CAR/BEANIE BABY DRIVES TO SEND TO THE SOLDIERS TO DISTRIBUTE TO IRAQI CHILDREN. WHEN WE SEND CARE PACKAGE, WE MAKE SURE THEY GO TO THE UNITS THAT OUR STUDENT’S PARENTS OR OTHER RELATIVES BELONG TO. THROUGHOUT THE YEAR, WE INVITED MILITARY PARENTS TO COME TO OUR FRIDAY FLAG SALUTE IN UNIFORM. THEY SOMETIMES BRING A FLAG THAT FLEW ON THEIR SHIP, OR TALK ABOUT HOW MUCH THEY LOVED THE CARE PACKAGES AND LETTERS. WE ALLOW THE CHILD OF THE PARENT TO STAND BY THEM, TO BEAM WITH PRIDE.

AT OUR SCHOOL, WE HAVE EMBRACED THIS GROUP OF STUDENTS AND THEIR FAMILIES. WHILE THERE IS SO MUCH WE CAN DO, IT IS OFTEN DIFFICULT TO FIND THE TIME AND MONEY. I HOPE THAT THIS NETWORK CAN GROW, NOT ONLY AT OUR SCHOOL, BUT ACROSS THE NATION AT ALL OF OUR SCHOOLS.

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Mother Goose has many great ideas for how to get the military kids together in your school.  This program implemented by Principal Hazlett has proven very effective for improving communication among military families in their community.  The students with deployed parents are now receiving support and enjoying a great camaraderie.
How are military kids in your school identified and then gathered together?  Mother Goose will be busy following up on the situation at this school and others across the nation.  Watch for me to fly over a school near you and stay tuned as Mother Goose Salutes Military Kids in our Schools…
Winging my way over Tantallon Castle in Scotland.

Winging my way over Tantallon Castle in Scotland.

 

(Photo courtesy of the Daily Mail.)