Middle-of-the-night phone calls from deployed parents, a new school almost every year and making friends at the parent’s new duty station can be difficult for the children of service members.
Multiple deployments don’t make the sting of a missing parent any easier, and counselors at some schools just can’t understand what military kids are going through, a panel of 10 children told a gathering of about 200 health care professionals Thursday in downtown Tacoma.
Family separations will be common in the coming months as some 12,000 soldiers from three Fort Lewis Stryker brigades go to Iraq and Afghanistan – the first time so many local Stryker brigades have deployed at once.
The discussion was part of the Military Child and Adolescent Summit, a three-day meeting at Tacoma’s Hotel Murano. It’s geared for military and civilian health care officials whose care focuses on children.
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The children, ranging from 5 to 16 years old, spoke about life with a parent in the service. Here are some selected questions from the hourlong discussion:
What’s it like to be a kid when a parent deploys?
Tiana Douglas, an 11-year-old Navy daughter from Spanaway: “It’s hard and it’s not cool. I don’t like it because (others) don’t really understand what it’s like to have your parents go.”
Bria White, a 15-year-old Army daughter from Puyallup: “You get really sad and start missing your parents. It’s hard just talking to them on the phone and not being able to see them or hug them.”
What’s the toughest part of a deployment?
Cameron Vogel, a 12-year-old Army son from Yelm: “It’s when the parent comes back, because sometimes the dad changes. The rules changed. He expects different things of me. It’s hard to get used to a parent being home.”
Bethany Boice, a 16-year-old Army daughter from Olympia: “I know my mom went through some hard times, and that affected me. One time my brother and I were playing slapjack on the kitchen table. My mom had just gotten back from Iraq. She came into the kitchen and started asking, ‘What is that noise?’ and started freaking out. We told her that it was just a game. Every time we slapped the jack, she would jump. So we’re not really able to do that anymore.”
Gabriela Elliott, an 11-year-old Army daughter from DuPont: “The hardest part is after you drop them off and go home. You just don’t know what to do.”
Scott Fontaine: 253-320-4758