Sep 01, 2014

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Unique Back-to School Challenges Military Families Face

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Summer break has come to an end and school is resuming. Children are filling back packs, parents are scrambling to find all of the school supplies and Open Houses are being attended all over the United States. It is a fairly ordinary occurrence with just a little fanfare via the occasional Back to School party. There are, however, certain communities where the preparations for back to school and the emotions connected to them are a little bit different, like in military communities.

Tragedy at Fort Hood

At the largest Army Base in the United States, Fort Hood in Texas, things are a little different. In November of 2009, Major Malik Nadal Hassan launched a massive shooting spree on innocent and unsuspecting patrons. He was serving as an Army Psychiatrist. He killed and injured many including an unborn child. The location of the shooting was less than a mile from a school and as a result, all of the schools were locked down. The post was completely locked down and no one but emergency personnel in or out. It was complete havoc. Students had no way to get to their parents, and parents had no way to reach their children. It would take several hours to clear the area so that children could be picked up from the schools. No one felt safe. The children were worried and nervous. The parents were incredibly anxious. Most times, people would not expect a violent attack of this magnitude to come from someone who works side by side with other soldiers, especially in the mental health field.

As the children and parents at Fort Hood begin going back to school, this incident is not distant in the memories of military families, even the ones who have been stationed to Fort Hood following this tragedy. Military families must exercise an elevated level of vigilance. In fact, heightened vigilance is a part and a responsibility of military families. The threats against military members and their families are greater. They must learn to be more observant and take measures to lessen the possibility of becoming a target. There are safety measures that must be adhered to, learned and drilled into even the youngest of students. It is not unusual to hear a weekly test of the emergency siren. Military children living on Fort Hood wake up to the Army Reveille. This is a constant reminder of where they are, why they are there and that they have a parent who serves in the United States Army.

Missed Milestones

Many military children are starting their school days minus one parent (sometimes both, in the case of dual military). Soldiers are deployed during the milestone moments, like the first day of school, births, baptisms, birthdays and anniversaries. It takes a lot of strength to be the wife of a soldier because she must be prepared at any moment to spend time, sometimes as long as a year, as a single parent, and it has nothing to do with divorce. A common saying among military wives is “I am his wife, but the military is his mistress.“ But every military wife once lived in the civilian world and has had to become accustomed to the ways of military life. While the military family lifestyle can be trying and difficult at times, one thing remains true and consistent: military families, while aware of the element of danger and levels of sacrifice, have a deep sense of pride in being members of a military family.


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Maralis Guzman

Maralis Guzman

Maralis is a writer and poet, mother of three and military wife. She is a Latina from New York City currently living in Texas. You can find Maralis blogging at What's in My Shoebox? about the things she is most passionate about; motherhood, women empowerment and military family life.

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