What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the word military? Uniforms? Guns? War? Defending our Nation is the ultimate calling of our troops, but there are many other facets of life for a military family member beyond war. The military is a rich culture of tradition, honor, and sacrifice—as well as family, fun, and a lot of volunteerism! Our campers said that stereotypes about the Service made deployments even tougher. They feel teachers and classmates sometimes assume what their families’ political beliefs are and don’t understand them during this time. They feel alone. That’s important to know because most military kids live in the community and are not surrounded by other kids who know what their life is like. National Guard and Reserve children may be the only military child in a class or entire school. Negative associations with military life such as protests, judgments on the war or service members, in general, are very disturbing for children. Imagine how much more so if the negative actions are expressed or perceived to be held by a trusted figure in their life such as a teacher or mentor?
“In my family it’s a tradition to be in the military.”
Here are some other ways to get to know more about the military culture and dispel a few myths along the way:
Take a field trip to a military installation.
Monitor how children are exposed to media coverage of the military. For them, it’s not just the news. It’s personal and it’s complicated.
Invite a service member to talk about his or her job. There are doctors, mechanics, engineers, computer specialists, and many other types of professionals serving in the military. The military is just one place to apply a range of skills.
Talk with your organization leaders regarding how you will handle discussions with children about current combat operations, particularly if there is a military child in your group.
Volunteer with a military charity. You’ll get a new perspective working with and for military families.
Talk with your children about what culture means and why it’s important to any community.
Pick up a Military Times paper to read news written just for service members and their families. Visit www.militarytimes.org for more information.