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


April is the Month of the Military Child. Yesterday on The PediaBlog, I covered the hardships children and their families endure when a loved one is deployed to a war zone. When they return home, our military heroes often have physical and psychological injuries — including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) — that need immediate and ongoing attention. Children and their families suffer from these injuries, too.

The following are some resources that can be useful to the children of our military families as they continue to work through the emotional stress that deployment creates, as well as for those who care for these children:

Operation Purple — A program sponsored by the National Military Family Association, it offers military kids a FREE WEEK of camp where they can connect with other children just like themselves. Why have they selected to call this Operation Purple? Because this is what comes out when you mix the colors of Army Green, Coast Guard/Air Force/Navy Blue, and Marine Red!

Military Kids Connect — An online community for military children ages 6-17 that provides access to age-appropriate resources to support our military children. It was created by the Department of Defense and includes secure discussion boards where military children can connect with others who have the same experiences.

Sesame Street’s Sesame Workshop for Military Families — “Arming military families with love, laughter, and practical tools for deployment.”

Zero To Three’s Military Family Projects — Provides support “tailored to the needs, strengths, and interests of young children of veteran families, as well as the professionals who serve them.” This includes a special 3-piece set, “Honoring Our Babies and Toddlers,” which “provides methods to support young children affected by stress, trauma, grief, and loss due to a military parent’s deployment, injury, or death.”


On a personal note:

I entered the Army in 1998 while still in medical school at the University of Pittsburgh. I trained as a pediatrician at the military’s largest pediatric residency program, in San Antonio, TX. As many of our readers are aware, I then served as an active-duty pediatrician at Fort Stewart Georgia (Winn Army Community Hospital).

During that 3-year period from 2004-2007, I, like many of our soldiers, sailors, and Marines, left my 3-week-old boy for 12 months to support the men and woman of 3-7 Infantry in southern Baghdad. But I was one of the lucky fathers who was able to return to my family. Coming home was difficult and required some extra help to work through the emotional stress after being in a combat environment for a year.

We lost over 40 soldiers on our forward operating base (Fob Falcon) during that deployment. We must never forget that each one of those soldiers had families, and many of them had children who also made the ultimate sacrifice the day their loved one died. We must remind these children that they are our nation’s youngest heroes, and remember to ourselves that everyday they live with the conflict that took their parent or loved one. We must also remember that while many veterans have come home, they continue to deal with the toll the conflicts in the Middle East have created.