By AnnaMaria G. Gallozzi
By 2008, the war we were waging overseas was still strong. The deaths and injuries were coming home every day. Nothing would ever be the same.
Their father was finally coming home after what felt like an eternity. Donovan was 3 years old at the time, and he was ready to see his daddy again. Little did he know, his daddy was different.
Angry, distant, and unable to cope with life after Iraq their father started to self-medicate. He was absent from birthdays, family events, and social gatherings. Donovan and his younger sister, Amber, no longer felt daddy’s love. Their mother, Sarah, was desperate to help her family from falling apart.
Sarah could feel the distance, the lack of support and love, and the terror that her children were facing, for they felt as though they lost their father back in Iraq. Amber and Donovan understood their fathers knee injury, but the anger and depression was something children their age could not understand. He would get angry and lash out with no warning.
In 2014, reality hit Sarah and her family. Her husband had a suicide scare, as a result, he finally received the help he needed.
Explaining to Amber and Donovan that daddy had a brain injury was difficult at first, but Sarah knew that if they continued the conversation every day, her wonderfully strong military kids would understand to a certain extent.
Instead of a constant focus on how life would be different, Sarah knew her kids needed a positive outlet.
For Donovan she first tried sports, like football, but found her son intimidated by the aggressive nature of the coach. The constant yelling added to Donovan’s stress and anxiety.
Sarah reached out to Our Military Kids in 2014. Money was tight, as her husband could not work due to his injuries. Sarah’s kids were eligible for the grant program.
Donovan and Amber, quickly became enrolled in gymnastics.
Both of her kids would come home to share what they learned at gymnastics. They wanted to make sure their dad could see their flips and turns even if he felt uncomfortable going to the gym to watch. Being around large crowds and loud noises was very uncomfortable for their father. It would take time before he could see his kids perform, or even want to risk going out.
Their father has now seen them perform a few times, and is very proud of his kids. Although at times the performances can be hard, his children’s self-esteem has grown.
Getting Amber and Donovan involved in gymnastics not only helped them find a place to alleviate their stress, it gave the whole family something positive to focus on and support. Their father is proud of everything they do and wants to continue to share their passion for gymnastics.
“I know their lives will not be "normal" but they have a hero for a dad and they take a lot of pride in that. I think Our Military Kids has been a therapy, when they sometimes don't understand the world around them. I can't thank this organization enough and I hope it can continue to grow and thrive because if it has done this much for my family think of how many other families you are saving!!!”- Sarah Lopez
For more information and resources for military children, visit: www.ourmilitarykids.org