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Putting Our Values To Work

kidsfourth.jpgOne of the issues that gets swept out of the public eye far too often is the human component of our soliders and what happens with their families during the long, multiple tours overseas.  The WaPo has a great piece today about a group that formed to address this issue for the kids left behind:

“There’s stress that goes along with not knowing if your parent is going to be okay. Hearing or seeing very graphic things. Hearing about mass casualties,” said Judith A. Cohen, a Pittsburgh child psychiatrist.To meet the need of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, which have meant the deployment of more than 1 million Americans since 2001, nonprofit groups are sprouting from seeds of good intentions. One is Our Military Kids, which provides grants for activities to children such as the Wilkinsons.

Started in McLean in 2005, the organization has delivered more than $600,000 to the children of deployed National Guard and reserves parents in chunks no greater than $500. Payments have reached children in all 50 states, the District and Puerto Rico.

In Ohio alone, grants have paid for lessons in swimming, dance, cheerleading, martial arts, piano, football, acting, bowling, softball and driver’s education. The money may not stretch far, but children, parents and National Guard officers say the cash often makes a critical difference at a time when many kids feel needy.

Now that is patriotic — and a wonderful idea.  You can find more information about Our Military Kids at their website.  It’s only one organization listed in the WaPo article, but most national guard and reserve unit commanders have information about local groups set up to help with these issues as well — so if you are interested in helping out, call your local unit and ask what you can best do to pitch in for these kids and families.

It’s time we all started doing more than just slapping a magnet on our cars and acting self-righteous about our bumper stickers.  There are kids out there in America who are terrified for their parents, and they deserve better than some puffed up “patriotism and platitudes.”  

Sometimes, as little as a teddy bear and a chance to spend some time with other kids in the same boat can make a world of difference, as can some adult just listening a little bit and giving them an outlet to express their fear and frustration and pride and whatever else is on their minds.

You want to serve your nation during the 4th of July?  Helping these kids through a rough time is a great way to start. 

If you are an artist, offer a day of lessons once every couple of weeks.  Or help with a creative writing course if you are a writer.  Or start a reading group at the local library so military spouses can browse for a book in peace for a half hour or so.  Or if you have horses, setting something up once a week so that a kid or two can come out and have a ride.  Or set up a photography course with some disposable cameras and an hour or two and a donation of print development from a local shop.  Or a cooking class, so older kids can learn to make a meal for the parent that is home with them or for themselves if that parent is working double shifts to make up the pay differential of the long reserves tour.  Or…well, you get what I’m saying.  The possibilities are endless, but it takes making that first step to make it happen.

If none of that works for you, try some of the ideas here.  Or some of the other ones here.  We all do well to remember that the soldiers being moved back and forth on the President’s orders are human beings with families and loved ones and friends who want nothing more than their safe return.  And we do even better to realize that some of these soliders have children who didn’t ask to be this afraid that daddy or mommy would never come back.

If you know of other groups or organizations that are working on these issues or that deserve a shout out, please feel free to link them up in the comments.  Putting our values to work means that we are actually doing something — and a magnet on your car is not nearly enough for these kids.  Reach out, and put your values to work for someone who really needs a hand.  You’ll be glad you did, and your community will benefit from it immensely.

(Photo via cyanocorax.)

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Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com

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