February 7, 2018
(Tupelo, Miss.) As almost half of the state’s National Guard soldiers prepare to deploy to Kuwait, the children they leave behind will face unique stressors during the year-long separation. A national non-profit, Our Military Kids, is hoping to ease their anxiety by paying for extracurricular activities while their parents are overseas.
Our Military Kids provides grants for activities to children of National Guard and Reservists who are deployed overseas, as well as children of severely injured in all branches. The purpose of the grants – which can cover up to six months of activities per deployment – is to help children cope with the anxiety and other challenges associated with a lengthy separation from their parents.
This spring, Mississippi will send more than 4,200 soldiers from the 155th Armored Brigade Combat Team to Kuwait in support of Operation Spartan Shield. This will be the unit’s third deployment to the Middle East since 9/11. Many of these families will suffer financial hardships when moving from civilian pay to active duty pay. Yet staying involved in activities – which can be costly – is essential for children’s mental health during the difficult time of deployment.
According to a report by the RAND Corporation, older boys and girls of all ages with a deployed parent had significantly more problems with school, family and peers than do children the same age in the general U.S. population. Longer deployments were associated with more problems.
Our Military Kids was founded after 9/11 as a way to thank the families of Guard and Reservists who were called on for repeated, lengthy deployments. Co-founder Linda Davidson wanted the children of deployed soldiers to have access to activities that would keep them engaged while their parents were deployed. Most of the Guard and Reserve families aren’t located in military communities, so many of these children are isolated in their experience.
Since its founding in 2004, Our Military Kids has awarded almost $25 million in grants. That number includes more than 1,500 grants to children throughout Mississippi for activities such as martial arts, youth rodeo, hockey, tennis and singing camp.
In anticipation of the large number of children who will be affected by this upcoming deployment, Our Military Kids is increasing its outreach efforts to make sure all eligible children receive a grant. “This can be a really tough time for children,” said Davidson. “We want these kids to stay active and explore new challenges. And the best news is that these grants help the entire family.”
In surveys of past grant recipients, 97 percent of families saw improvement in the entire family’s well-being as a result of the extra-curricular activities. Many children credit these grants for keeping them focused while their parents were away.
Support the Mississippi Deployment
Our Military Kids, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit providing substantial support to children of deployed National Guard and Military Reserve service members and to children of wounded warriors from all active and reserve military branches. For more information, visit www.ourmilitarykids.org or call Gretchen Hitchner at (703) 734-6654.