April is Military Children’s Health Month. This time of year is an opportunity to recognize the children of our nation’s heroes –military children–and highlight their contributions to their communities, and the military’s role in caring for its children.
Within the Armed Forces community, there are an estimated two million military children, according to data from the National Child Traumatic Stress Network.
The Air Force Medical Service was formally established in 1949 and the Air Force has been providing medical care to safeguard the health and wellbeing of Airmen and their families ever since. In order to truly care for the Airman and maintain readiness of the total force, it is imperative to care for the Airmen's families –especially their children.
The Air Force provides medical care to its Airmen and families around the world. Air Force children are cared for at 63 medical facilities in the continental U.S. and 12 overseas locations.
Military children are heroes in their own right. Much like their parents, military children are serving their country. They face many challenging issues dealt with by military families, such as coping with deployments, routinely picking up and moving to the next duty location and frequently being the new kid at school. With challenges however, come stories of great courage, determination and strength.
Military Kids Connect is a Department of Defense initiative formed by the National Center for Telehealth and Technology. MKC is an online resource for military children between the ages of 6 to 17. Within MKC, military children and families share stories of coping with deployment.
Ten-year-old Michael is part of an Air Force family. His father is a Chief Master Sergeant. The day his father was leaving for Afghanistan, was a hard day for Michael. He thought about how much he would miss his father –everything from hugs from his dad to his father’s special hotdogs and hamburgers. Considering the violence going on in the deployed theater, Michael worried for his father’s safety and feared he would not make it another day. That was when his older sister Nicole, stepped in. Nicole spent extra time with Michael, took him to do activities he normally did with his dad and helped to lift Michael’s spirits. The siblings were able to strengthen their bond and keep each other company while their father was away from home on deployment.
Gavin started a teddy bear drive when he was 12. Every time his father deployed, he would give Gavin a teddy bear –these bears reminded Gavin of his father. The bears provided comfort –as something to hold onto and be there while he talked. Gavin decided the bears could provide comfort to other kids too. He would visit military family centers, giving out teddy bears to other military kids. When asked how it made him feel, Gavin said, “[It made me feel] happy that I made a child happy.”
Eleven-year-old Mika is very close with his family, especially his active duty father. His father’s 13-month deployment was especially hard, shared Mika. “We had a lot of things together that just were not there anymore.” To help cope with his father’s deployment, Mika turned to volunteering. “My dad’s deployment really inspired me to volunteer.” Mika began giving back at home and within the community, on base and off. His volunteer duties included everything from keeping parks clean by picking up trash, to mowing lawns for neighbors. Mika contributed over 350 hours of volunteer service to his community.
“When my dad is deployed, volunteering really helps because [I am] helping other people,” said Mika. “[I am] giving back to the community, helping people who maybe really cannot help themselves, so I do not feel sad.”
Military OneSource is a Department of Defense-funded confidential program which provides around the clock support to military families, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Visit Military OneSource to learn more about available resources.
Stay tuned throughout April, as AFMS continues the month-long series on military children’s health.