It is very difficult for children to see their military parents return home with amputations, burns, or paralysis. And it may even be harder for a child to understand how traumatic brain injuries and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can turn a parent into a moody and withdrawn stranger.
Fortunately, programs exist to help children cope with these changes in their lives. Our Military Kids is one of the most simple and effective. Our Military Kids awards grants of up to $500 to children of severely injured wounded service members and veterans so they can participate in extracurricular activities – sports, fine arts, and tutoring programs, generally speaking.
On the surface, you might wonder how beneficial this program would be. The stories speak for themselves.
Take, for instance, the Barton family. SPC Aaron Barton returned from Iraq with a traumatic brain injury and PTSD, the result of an explosion. He was no longer the congenial, even-tempered man he once was. He had become cross and withdrawn. The changes in his personality affected both of his children. Alex, now 17, attempted suicide. Fortunately, he survived. His sister Abigail, now 15, went through a deep depression.
Abigail received a grant from Our Military Kids, a nonprofit organization that paid for her to play soccer on a travel team. Soccer is her passion; it’s what makes her get out of bed in the morning. The high cost of the travel team prohibited her from joining in the past, but the grant removed the financial barrier. It allowed her to focus her energy on something positive and alleviate depression instead of the constant reminder that her father will never be the same.
Her participation in this soccer program will change Abigail’s future. It has already made her a healthier person, both physically and mentally. And it has opened up doors that would never have existed. Abigail’s team placed third in the nation in the Youth Soccer National Championship this past summer. Now, her team plays in exhibition games for college coaches, putting Abigail one step closer to the possibility of a college scholarship.
Our Military Kids surveys its past grant recipients and consistently finds that approximately nine out of ten children of wounded service members and veterans experience increased stress and anxiety after the injury. Yet 98 percent of families say receiving the grant positively impacted the children and their symptoms of stress, and also contributed to improved morale for the injured service member. Something as simple as playing sports or participating in fine arts is exceptionally beneficial to the entire family.
So how do you apply for a grant from Our Military Kids? It’s simple – just go to www.ourmilitarykids.org. There, you can print an application. In addition to the application, you need to attach three things — 1) a copy of the child’s military ID or birth certificate, 2) fee information for the child’s activity so we can issue a check to the service provider, and 3) a letter from the wounded parent’s case manager so we can certify the service member is currently receiving treatment for severe injuries sustained in support of OIF, OEF, or OND.
Children of wounded service members are eligible for four grants over the course of two years – one grant every six months. Grants are up to $500 to cover activity participation during a six-month period. You can choose almost any activity you want – it’s easier to tell you the activities not covered, which are preschool, daycare, academic tuition, and religious mission trips.
Being involved in activities is such a simple solution to a difficult problem. It might not be a quick fix families are looking for, but it’s a great first line of defense.