JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas —
As part of serving, military members make numerous sacrifices, but they are not the only ones. Their children, who face unique challenges and difficulties, make sacrifices of their own.
April is designated as the Month of the Military Child, underscoring the important role military children play in the armed forces community. It is a time to recognize military children for the daily sacrifices they make and the challenges they overcome, according to the Department of Defense Education Activity.
“The purpose on the Month of the Military Child is to recognize America’s youngest warriors,” elaborated Lori Phipps, 802nd Force Support Squadron School Liaison Office military child education specialist. “It brings attention to the trials, tribulations and things these kids go through just by being a part of the military. They serve too even though they don’t wear a uniform right alongside their parents.”
Some of those challenges include having a parent deployed at times, the uncertainty of the future and, if the parent returns as a wounded warrior, the recovery process and lifestyle changes associated with that. In addition, they move away from friends, family and everything they know when permanently changing duty stations with their parents. They also are faced with possible cultural and language differences, depending on where they relocate.
The average child in a military family will move six to nine times during a school career, an average of three times more frequently than nonmilitary families, according to DODEA.
Along with the regular stress that is associated with moving, relocation has additional challenges for children in regards to student’s education, according to Phipps.
To ease this stress, all 50 states have signed an Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children that ensures children of military families are afforded the same opportunities for educational success as other children and are not penalized or delayed in achieving their educational goals such as graduation or progression to the next grade because of frequent moves, according to DoDEA. Through this law, military students transferring schools at any time will not lose any credits or classes toward graduation and educational institutions must work with the child’s previous school and local military school liaison to accomplish this.
While important, education is not the only challenged associated with the military life. Social and emotional factors also come into play.
They may miss tryouts for sports for that year or the new school may not have their favorite classes, clubs or sports, Phipps said, but there are many more benefits to life in a military family.
“They can have an cultural experience like no other,” Phipps said, adding that living in different locations gives children more exposure to different cultures and expanded knowledge. “They become more resilient and patriotic. Military children are known to be more studious, disciplined and well-rounded. They are leaders who step up and volunteer.”
At JBSA-Lackland, David Zulli, son of Lt. Col Daniel Zulli, 502nd Air Base Wing chaplain, learned to thrive off the unique challenges of growing up in a military family and was recently awarded the Texas State Military Youth of the Year Award for excellence in public speaking, academics and character.
David shared that though he enjoyed moving frequently, he experienced a difficult time fitting in at each school and credits other military children at the Boys and Girls Club in San Antonio for helping him find a sense of community.
“They helped me overcome that anxiety, that social fear, and now I’m a better leader, a better student, and I’m more involved in my community,” David noted. “I found out how to be resilient, and that’s the most important character trait for any military kid. At the age of three, it’s hard to understand why you’re moving around, but when you get older, you’ve had a lot of change happen during your formative years, so you need to find a way to process that.”
Their adaptability and resiliency skills have earned them recognition through endearing terms like “military brat.”
“There is also now another term: ‘chameleon kids,’ because they move, adapt and move forward,” Phipps said. “Also, the flower for military children is the dandelion because no matter where they are blown, they are able to put down roots and grow.”
Providing children and families with quality services and support to help them succeed in the mobile military lifestyle is important, according to DODEA.
To provide that support, the military has a range of resources available for military children. Installation youth centers offer numerous clubs, sports and after school activities. Military & Family Readiness Centers also have military family life counselors, who provides confidential non-medical counseling one-on-one or for the entire family. Military OneSource provides similar services in addition to online, video and telephonic counseling.
There is also the Exceptional Family Member Program for children with special needs and the SLO, which helps solve any complications or difficulties that may arise from transferring school to school. In addition, there is http://militarykidsconnect.dcoe.mil/, an online community that provides access to age-appropriate resources to support children dealing with the unique psychological challenges of military life, according to the website.
To contact the Youth Center, call 210-671-2388 for JBSA-Lackland, 210-221-3502 for JBSA-Fort Sam Houston or 210-652-3298 for JBSA-Randolph. To contact MFLC, call 210-540-5025 for JBSA-Lackland, 210-221-2705 for JBSA-Fort Sam Houston or 210-627-1223 for JBSA-Randolph. To contact EFMP, call 210-292-2775 for JBSA-Lackland, 210-916-5721 for JBSA-Fort Sam Houston or 210-652-5321 for JBSA-Randolph.