By Damian Ternullo, M.D., Pediatric Alliance — St. Clair Division



April is the Month of the Military Child. I wanted to write this post on The PediaBlog as a small reminder of the sacrifices many of our families have made — and continue to make — as their loved ones serve in our nation’s military. There are over 2 million children — ranging in age from newborns to eighteen — with family members who are on active duty, in the reserve, or are veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Military children live in all communities — not just those near large active-duty bases such as Fort Bragg, NC or Fort Stewart, GA. Many military children face unique challenges that our civilian neighbors are shielded from. These include family stressors such as deployment to a war zone, frequent moves, disrupted relationships with friends, and reunification of a returning loved one from deployment. Research has shown that some children may be more at risk of having difficulties with long and/or repeated deployments of their loved ones. At-risk children include boys, those children with preexisting health problems, children of those who serve in the National Guard/Reserve, and those who do not live near large military communities (which would include the children living in our communities locally).



An issue that many of our military veterans’ families live with on a daily basis is the courage to discuss injuries — both physical and emotional — that result from war. It is estimated that over 900,000 servicemen and servicewomen have sought treatment at the Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals and clinics since returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Over 270,000 traumatic brain injuries have been reported by the Defense Department since 2001, most of them attributed to these two most recent wars. Approximately 1 in 5 military veterans — more than 300,000, so far — have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  The children of these veterans are significantly affected by their loved ones injuries, both seen and unseen.

PTSD, like other injuries that are a result of war, requires time, treatment, and the support of family and friends to heal. PTSD occurs when reactions to stress are lasting and severe enough to interfere with everyday activities. Symptoms in a veteran include rage outbursts, feeling numb, feeling like combat is the only place you fit, and not wanting to be around people. It is easy to see how PTSD affects not just the veteran, but their respective families and loved ones.



Tomorrow on The PediaBlog: Part 2 of “Month of the Military Child.” I’ll provide useful links to resources that can provide information and support for children of our military families and the adults who care for them.