April is Military Children's Month, yet many of us have never thanked a child for giving up a parent, grandparent or other dear relative, sometimes for a year or more.
We have six children, ranging from nine years old to 25. The older four live in our home state of Minnesota and all are military children. Our two newly adopted girls, ages 9 and 11 years old, have adapted to military life. They're very proud to have their dad in the military. But they were disappointed when he left just three months after the adoption was finalized in January of last year.
It was a tough transition.
Within the last month, both girls were asked to write about being a military child for an upcoming University of Southern California social work conference for students who want to counsel military families and veterans.
This is an excerpt from my 11-year-old daughter wrote.
"The first reason it's sad with my dad is gone is that my parents adopted my sister and I on January 28, 2011. After only three months, my dad left deployed, to Afghanistan. The second reason why it's hard is always thinking about what if he never comes home, what if he is betrayed or kidnapped by someone. And the last reason; it's hard on us all on special days like my parents' anniversary, Valentine's Day and my parents' engagement. There are good reasons to be thankful, even though he's in a dreaded place. We can email and Skype each other, which I love! My dad and his friends (Chaplains) write the most touching daily meditations, which mean so much to me."
My 9-year-old has already had a book published, as well as using parts of her book to promote military families with community organizations. Her book was called, "My Military Family and I" through the El Camino YMCA. Her book was written last summer at the summer "Y Authors" camp and will be used for promotional purposes by the YMCA to support of all military children and their families through YMCA programs and reduced military membership. The book was published through www.createspace.com and coordinated by the camp staff.
Here are some of her written thoughts.
"It's very hard being a military kid because there can be a lot of dangerous things going on over there that I think about. One of the most important things I dread is thinking of the thousands of people who die over there. It would be very sad if you lost a family member, and as a military child I think about that all the time. There's one good thing though! My dad's unit has a therapy dog named Zeke. He helps injured soldiers feel better in Afghanistan. My mom emails prayers to my dad everyday. My dad just loves getting them. He is a man of faith.
There are a few things I always miss about being with my dad. I miss hearing his voice in the morning. I miss him picking us up from school and taking us to Dairy Queen. I miss going on bike rides with him. Most of all, I miss him being here every second of everyday. Some of the hardest things being home without him are that we don't get to see him and talk to him everyday. It's really hard being a military kid.
These are some things that make it easy for us: Talking about it, keeping a diary, and going to therapy. I think going to therapy gives you a chance to share your feelings. We now go to a horse ranch every other Thursday to help with the horses, which I also love doing. Horses are one of my favorite animals! We also went to Operation Purple Camp for military kids last summer, which was so much fun. I'd like to tell all military kids and other people that it won't always be easy and sometimes it will be very difficult. Stay strong, proud, and thankful!"
One of my lingering thoughts is, "Do people ever thank a military child for their service?"
This month, we received a box of cookies in the mail from a person we didn't even know, but the generous sender knew my husband. It made my girls' day! There was a sweet note of support to our family for our service. A small gesture like this can go a long way in recognizing children's sacrifices too. Just think... it can start with a simple thank you or a simple box of cookies and together we can pay this appreciation forward to all military children.