Local News

Deployments Taking Toll On Military Children

Posted October 17, 2003

— Children whose parents are deployed often turn into troublemakers. It is just one of the things that can happen when a family struggles with military separation.

Thursday, Maj. Gen. William E. Ingram, Jr., commander of the North Carolina National Guard, addressed the state's 117 school system superintendents to discuss the effects the deployment of thousands of citizen soldiers and airmen are having on school children.

School superintendents have been keeping an eye on children of deployed soldiers and they have noticed more of those children performing poorly in school, struggling with depression and even having thoughts of suicide.

At some schools, the vast majority of children are left with only one parent. At Bill Hefner Elementary School in Fayetteville, 71 percent of parents are connected to the military.

While students learn about patriotism, the deployments can be painful.

"Sometimes they act out because mom or dad is away," said Capt. Sherrell Murray of the North Carolina National Guard.

"I am aware some of the students have had some issues that schools have had to deal with," Wake County Superintendent Bill McNeal said.

"We've had families already, where dad was not present for the first day of kindergarten to the high school graduation," Murray said.

The N.C. National Guard is experiencing its largest call-up of soldiers and airmen since World War Two. Nearly 6,000 guard members are on active duty, and in the next few months, 4,500 are expected to leave for Iraq.

"We say there is easily 9,000 children out there from Murphy to Manteo that are being directly impacted by the deployment," Murray said. "Certainly, that creates confusion and tension for them and concern for their family safety."

It is not often that 117 of the state's school superintendents are in the same room. That provided the National Guard the opportunity to address some of the consequences of all these deployments. It is a problem the National Guard and the schools are trying to fend off before it gets any worse.

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