When Henry Miller ran down the parade field at Fort Hood, Texas, and jumped into his father’s arms to welcome Army Maj. Matt Miller back from deployment last month, he was one of nearly 2 million children in America whose parents are part of the total force, and one of more than 1.1 million of those with at least one active-duty parent, according to the Defense Department. It’s important to remember during April, the Month of the Military Child, that kids such as Henry serve, too.
Six-year-old Henry will move to his seventh home this summer, slightly more than the average military child who will move six to nine times through high school, says the Pentagon. That’s six to nine times start over making friends, getting to know teachers, learning about their neighborhoods like those close to Fort Hood.
Often, these military kids get along with just one parent while the other is deployed, for extended periods of time. They navigate homework, holidays and all of life’s childhood ups and downs sometimes with only their mom or their dad to help out. It’s a heavier lift for single-parent military kids, who find a home with a relative or family friend.
Add to that the stress and worry of a deployed parent, and it’s easy to see how these kids are asked to take on a lot more than their civilian counterparts. Unlike their parents, kids like Henry didn’t volunteer ― our military kids are drafted into service. As we salute these children this month, we should remember that they are a vital component of our military force.
Today’s military parents are millennials, and like other millennials they have a keen concern about their families’ well-being. In our recent Blue Star Families 2017 Survey, both members of the military and their spouses rated education and the impact of deployments among their top five concerns. It’s a growing concern among military parents.
Time away from family rates the No. 1 concern for both service members and military spouses. Making sure we are taking care of these kids, not just within the family, but within the community and with our national policy is important for recruiting, readiness and retention.
For the last 10 years, the Blue Star Families annual Military Family Lifestyle Survey has been used to push change for those in the military community at the highest levels in our nation. The survey is often cited by journalists reporting on military-related topics; it’s been used in the West Wing of the White House and on Capitol Hill, as well. Most recently, the survey has helped to inform Sen. Tim Kaine’s proposed Military Spouse Employment Act and extended child care pilot programs.
Blue Star Families will be asking military-connected families to tell us their truth — about their concern for their children, their experience of service, the high points and the challenges of military life. From now until May 25, we ask the military community (including veterans and retired members) to complete the #BSFSurvey at http://bluestarfam.us/BSFSurvey18.
The impact goes far beyond the time spent completing the survey. The experiences shared from members of the military community help to tell the story of America’s service members and their families and inform solutions.
Happy, healthy military children will take some of the stress off their parents and in turn strengthen the force — not just today, but in the future. A 2013 Pentagon report found that more than half of today’s military members come from a military family, which indicates today’s military children are tomorrow’s sailors, Marines, airmen and soldiers.
All of us at Blue Star Families encourage our military community to tell your truth - please visit www.bluestarfam.org and take the survey today.
Kathy Roth-Douquet is co-founder and CEO of Blue Star Families, whose mission is to strengthen military families to help make military life more sustainable.