Local News

Military Schools Comfort Children With Parents at War

Posted October 25, 2007
Updated October 26, 2007

— With their parents facing bombs and bullets, the children of deployed soldiers are being comforted by the teachers and counselors at Fort Bragg schools.

Of nearly 4,300 students at Fort Bragg's nine schools, between 45 percent and 60 percent have at least one parent deployed to a combat zone.

That percentage has been even higher at Irwin Intermediate School. At least 70 percent of its 670 students have had a parent deployed within the past 12 months. In October, 43 percent had parents overseas.

Fifth-grader Tyler Hudgins experienced deployment for the first time when his father left for Iraq two months ago. Tyler said he sometimes feels "sad, mad. You'll throw stuff for no reason, because you're mad he's gone."

School counselors said children are keenly aware of the danger their parents face. Some react by becoming withdrawn or depressed, while others act out. All that makes it a challenge to keep students on track with their schoolwork, teachers said.

"Kids will come to school overwhelmed and anxious, and it's really hard to focus on the task at hand when they're worried about the safety of a parent," Irwin fifth-grade teacher Meredith Weipert said.

With many soldiers being deployed multiple times, it has become harder to calm children's fears, counselors said.

As of August 2007, the Department of Defense reported that 115,456 service members deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan had children at home. Some media reports said at least 700,000 children have had a parent deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan.

"A lot of the children will say, 'My dad hasn't been here for my birthday since I was 3 or 4 years old," Irwin sixth-grade counselor Natalie DaSilvan said.

"I talked with one child whose dad is coming back after 14 or 15 months. He's worried (that) here at the end, something is going to happen."

Fifth-grader Jymia Howard is a veteran of long separations. Her mother just got home from Iraq and recently learned she will be returning soon.

"I didn't like it. I just wanted her to stay, because I don't see her a lot," Jymia said.

Many teachers and counselors said they also have loved ones at war, so they understand what children are going through. Teachers at Irwin said the school family tackles the challenge together.

"When one of my students is hurting, I hurt as well," Weipert said.


Please with your WRAL.com account to comment on this story. You also will need a Facebook account to comment.

Oldest First
View all
  • RonnieR Oct 26, 2007

    Reminds me of my Drill Sergeant's advice back in '65: "If the Army
    wanted you to have a family, they woulda issued you one.
    Better you not be thinking about a family and that you concentrate on what's going on around you, 'cause Charlie
    will be. You'll live a lot longer that way." Besides a lot of women
    would marry GIs, and probably still do, for the GI Insurance,
    which is a lot more now that it was then.

  • kewlmom Oct 26, 2007

    The DoD provides resources to family members of deployed troops. When I was overseas, my children were able to use TriCare and talk to a child psychiatrist. It helped them to be able to talk to someone about how they were feeling knowing that what they said wouldn't be repeated. Often when I called, they would try to be upbeat and make me believe that everything was going well. I am no longer in the military, but I believe my children were forced to learn coping skills that will continue to benefit them throughout their lives.

  • tbajr Oct 26, 2007

    All the more reason to end this "illegal war" and reunite these
    loved ones. Had our top government leaders adhered to our Constitution, these years of conflict probably would not have
    been dragged out so long. There is only one person running for
    President who had the insight and stood firm on the Constitution
    againist the war..RON PAUL.

  • mrtwinturbo Oct 26, 2007

    I spent 20+ years in the military and had gone out on 58 deployments worldwide, I always found time to call my children. There were times I would call home and find my children crying, not only for their daddy, but because of other emotions they were feeling. I would calm them down the best I could until I got some laughter out of them. And reassure them I would be home soon. I know it was tough on them however it made them grow up a little faster and more independent. This does not happen for all kids, it all depends on mom to make sure they grow up with the correct values. Some times I wish that I had not been military and stayed home with them more, but they too enjoyed the travel that we all enjoyed.

  • grenlyn1 Oct 26, 2007

    Thank you for sharing happyncgurl. It is tough on the children especially when they do not have the coping skills as adults do. Children are suffering silently while life passes them by. The truth is children are suffering with social/emotional development while their loved ones are overseas. The experts fear this lack of coping skills will ultimately affect this generation as they grow up as adults. This is why it is so important for parents and loved ones to talk to school officals, seek help, put the needs of the children first. It affects them emotionally, acadmenically, and socially. I commend the school systems for keeping up with the recent research and applying the strategies necessary to ensure the children get the care they need. The resources are out there! Stories such as this should be reported and America needs to be aware that this War is affecting us here at home as well, especially the children. God Bless them All!!

  • PT Oct 26, 2007

    God Bless and so many Thanks to those who serve in the military and make such sacrifices to protect us all!

  • sweetange1 Oct 25, 2007

    I second that happygurl... nothing or no one can take the place of "Daddy" those babies really go thru something. It would break my heart to see my youngest crying for his Daddy at bedtime after prayers, or seeing the look on my oldest face when he was finished talking with Daddy for 5 mins. The teachers at Fort Bragg/Pope are some of the best teachers and administrators... Truly care for those babies. I get emotional when I think about the time my babies were having a hard time dealing with Daddy being gone, Dr. Bob and Dr. Montgomery took the time to come to my babies First Communion each year... That meant the world to my babies....To know your baby is hurting and you can't do anything to soothe the pain one of the most helpless feeling I've ever experienced... Deloyed Daddies/Mommies nothing can replace them.... Best Wishes

  • lynddsy Oct 25, 2007

    hello happygirlnc. my heart goes out to you and your family. please tell your husband thank you when you talk to him. i know no one can come up with the right words all the time but, i am glad the schools are trying to help. it would be cold of them if they didn't.

  • 3potato4 Oct 25, 2007

    All the best to you and yours, happyncgurl.

  • happyncgurl Oct 25, 2007

    no.. It's hard to say that just because they have a loved one gone to war that they can relate to how those children are feeling.. we as adults have learned to take care of ourselves.. those children know that the one person they have always depended on is gone... It's a scary thing... My husband is military as well and well to be honest.. there's days when he's deployed that there's nothing I can say or do to make it better.. although he's my husband.. he's their daddy.... I don't know just had to vent that for a minute.. I'm sure the school has their best intentions..