There are so many wonderful programs and operations out there to help support our military families during deployments, but let’s be honest: some of the very best of them focus on helping out the military kids. It’s hard when your spouse deploys, leaving you to deal with all the day to day chores and activities all while worrying about his or her safety, but deployments aren’t a walk in the park for your children either. Even the youngest of military children can be thrown entirely off balance by such a dramatic event. The first time my husband deployed after our daughter was born, she was only eight months old. I honestly was not prepared by how much his absence would affect her, even at such a young age! Sleepless nights, temper tantrums, and a general cranky mood appeared within the first day he was gone and stuck around for quite a while.
There are many ways to help a child get through these stressful times. There are countless books, articles and seminars about deployments (often offered right on base) to help out the most frazzled of parents and children. However with my experience, I’ve found that some of the most helpful coping mechanisms come from programs and organizations dedicated to making life easier for military families. My favorite program is “Operation Kid Comfort,” sponsored by the Armed Services YMCA. With a slew of volunteers and donations, the ASYMCA provides custom-made photo quilts (for ages 6 and under) or custom-made photo pillows (ages 7 and up) for the children going through the difficult absence of a deployed parent. Each quilt costs about $45 to make, and volunteers make about 1,000 quilts a year! The program has been featured in magazines, newspapers and television shows; the need for the quilts is not diminishing. Deployments continue to leave children behind missing a parent. These quilts, filled with pictures of their mom or dad, are just one special way of keeping the bond between a parent and child alive across the miles.
My daughter received her quilt on her first birthday. At only twelve months, I wasn’t sure she’d appreciate it too much. I was wrong. Of course, the quilt took the backburner through the birthday party, but for the next few weeks, she’d lie on the quilt and stare at pictures of her father. Pointing, smiling and giggling in the most heartwarming of ways, it became apparent that she did, in fact, appreciate the quilt more than I could’ve anticipated. The quilt came with a wonderful note from the volunteers of the organization. At twelve months the note did not mean much to her, but it surely brought me to tears. We sent a thank you note (complete with my daughter’s scribbles) but I wish we could’ve done so much more to express our gratitude. One of the best things about the program is that this quilt will always stay with my daughter. It’ll be there for her through, unfortunately, more deployments. It’ll be there for her when she goes away to college and it will be there for her to show her children in the years ahead. It truly is a special gift.
Operation Kid Comfort, sponsored by the ASYMCA is a wonderful program and I encourage everyone to get involved. Sponsor a blanket, use your sewing skills to help out a bit or request a quilt to help your child get through a deployment. Please feel free to learn more about Operation Kid Comfort. One this site you’ll also discover information regarding how to request a quilt for your child.