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NEWS | Nov. 12, 2009

Alabama kids reach out to Alabama military kids

By Staff Sgt. Katrina Timmons Alabama National Guard

MONTGOMERY, Ala. - The deployment of a Soldier affects no one more than a child. Children of the brave men and women, who protect the liberties and freedoms of the United States of American often suffer and sacrifice in silence. 

They try to be brave for their mommies and daddies and their brothers and sisters, but it’s hard for them to understand the emotional, mental and physiological characteristics associated with the burdens of a deployment. 

"When a Soldier is mobilized or deployed, a large portion of time is spent on preparing the soldier and the family for what to expect,” said Kelli Hill, child and youth coordinator for the Alabama National Guard’s Child and Youth program. "A lot of times the children are overlooked during that preparation process, even though their lives are literally turned upside down. Deployment never affects every child or teen the same way.” 

Some of the children may show signs of depression or anger while others might be more mature or grow closer to siblings and other family members, Hill said.

"One of the goals of the ALNG Child and Youth program is to provide support and education to children and teens during deployment,” said Hill. 

Yellow Ribbon events provide the ALNG Child and Youth program with an opportunity to educate them on what to expect during the deployment. 

"We educate them on stress management, time management, anger management, and several other topics in a fun and educational environment,” said Hill. It also offers the children with an opportunity to connect with other kids and teens their same age that are going through the same kind of experiences.

Another way the ALNG Child and Youth program offers support to the children is by providing Hero Packs. With the help of Operation Military Kids (OMK), each deploying Soldier’s child receives a Hero Pack at a Yellow Ribbon event. 

Put together by non-military youth, Hero Packs are a tangible expression of support from the communities and OMK partners.

The backpacks are filled with a collection of family support materials, communication tools, and fun items such as a cameras, stuffed animals or Frisbees. Also included are handwritten letters and cards from non-military youth thanking the children for their service and sacrifices they make for our country. 

"It is important that our children not be overlooked during a deployment,” said Hill. "They need the support of their schools, educators, churches and the communities.”