Fostering Resilience: How Operation Hero Makes a Difference
Written by Nicole P., Program Coordinator, Armed Services YMCA Fort Liberty
Military life comes with its difficulties, and one major challenge is deployment. Deployments can have a significant impact on kids, highlighting some of the negative effects of growing up in a military family. When a parent is absent due to deployment, children can experience a range of emotions, including loneliness, a sense of abandonment, confusion, or even anger. To help kids foster resilience through the unique challenges of military life, the Armed Services YMCA (ASYMCA) provides military resources for families. ASYMCA’s Operation Hero is a free afterschool program that creates a fun and safe environment for kids to receive emotional and academic support with free tutoring for military kids. This support is especially crucial as they navigate Permanent Change of Station (PCS) moves and deployments.
Here’s the difference Operation Hero made in a military child’s life while their father was deployed, as recounted by one of the program’s volunteers.
Operation Hero Provides Military Family Support through Deployments
I was helping kids with their projects when I noticed Camden standing by the whiteboard all by himself. When I walked over to check on him, he turned to look at me, and I saw that his face was bright red. Concerned, I looked down and noticed that he was wetting his pants, all the way down to his shoes. Something was wrong. Second graders don’t normally have this kind of accident.
Camden and his brother Joseph were participants in our Operation Hero program at Armed Services YMCA Fort Bragg.
I calmly took Camden into the hallway, and he started crying. I calmed him down and reassured him that everything was ok. I asked him what happened — kids can use the restroom whenever they need to and up until now this was never an issue for him. I was concerned that he was sick.
“No, I’m not sick. Ms. Nicole. I’m ok,” he said.
I reminded him that it was ok to use the restroom whenever he needed. “I know,” he said. “It’s just that sometimes I need to be reminded. And that’s my dad’s job.”
Camden’s dad had been deployed. Understanding what was happening, we got Camden some clean clothes, and he immediately reconnected with his brother, his spirits lifting.
When mom came to pick up the boys, I explained what had happened. She broke down in tears. “I’m doing the best I can to keep everything together. Homework. Housework. Meals. Snacks. Baths. Brushing Teeth. Working full time. I never thought to remind him to use the bathroom before we left the house.”
What Deployment — and Rapid Deployment — Means for Families
When soldiers enlist to serve our country, their families serve, too. In fact, a study found that 2.77 million service members have served on 5.4 million deployments since 9/11. About half of those deployed service members had children.
When a soldier deploys, spouses must keep their households running alone, often on a new base where they don’t know many people and have a limited support system, if any. Older kids step in to help, assuming new, more demanding roles in the family. It’s a team effort, and it can be overwhelming and exhausting. Then there is the additional worry of a loved one being overseas in potentially dangerous situations.
The ASYMCA is here to provide military family support. Knowing Dad was deployed, and Mom was struggling, we helped Camden and Joseph enjoy stress-free time where they could be kids. It was a time when Joseph, the older brother, didn’t have to feel responsible for his younger sibling. We also did little things to help mom — provided food, called to check in, and made sure she knew we were there for her and her children.
The ASYMCA Offers Help For Military Families
When soldiers are deployed, it’s important that kids and families know we’re here for them. With military resources for families offered at little to no cost, the ASYMCA ensures kids have an environment where they can make friends and get guidance from staff who understand their unique situation. Your donation today ensures that service members and their families receive the care and support they need to thrive.