The House this week approved a resolution I offered to credit a lesser recognized group of people affected by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan–the children of American service members.
April is the National Month of the Military Child. In 1986, Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger officially declared April as such, recognizing the need to provide quality services and support for children of military families. Every Secretary of Defense since has continued this tradition. Ft. Myer and Ft. Belvoir, military installations in Virginia's 8th District, have taken this directive seriously, each year hosting all-day events where military kids can relax and just be kids.
We ask a lot of our troops. But the sacrifices they make are often shared, because the military family is a unit that travels in spirit wherever duty calls.
Half of all military children are under the age of seven, and many live in single parent families or families where both parents are in the military. With more than a quarter of a million soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines currently deployed in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other points around the globe, the Department of Defense estimates that nearly 50% of these deployed service members leave children back in the States with family and friends.
Now that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have entered their sixth and seven years respectively, more than one million children in the U.S. have a parent or family member currently serving active military duty. On a sadder note, over 3,400 of these military children have lost a parent deployed overseas since September, 2001.
The effect of our prolonged engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan has had a serious impact on military children. The Defense Department reports that psychological services are up significantly for military kids since the wars began.
A few years ago, Tricia Johnson, co-founder of Kids Serve Too, a military family advocacy group, came to my office with the idea for honoring military children with a congressional resolution. Tricia knows firsthand the strain of having a spouse serving overseas puts on the military family, especially the children. She has two daughters and her husband, an army reservist, has served two tours of duty in Iraq and one in Afghanistan.
Tricia and her daughters have been tireless advocates for military families. Their commitment to helping others in their same situation– dealing with having a parent on the front lines of battle is more than commendable, it is a conscientiousness example for all Americans to follow. Tricia's daughter Claire believes that we should honor military children every month, not just during April. I agree. Hopefully this resolution will serve as a reminder to others that we need to keep these special families and their littlest soldiers in mind throughout the year.