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The Children of Military Families

We invited Anita Tedaldi, a journalist and Air Force mom, to guest-blog today about the children of military families.

Good causes often fight for the spotlight. It’s hard to keep track of them all. So don't be surprised if you didn't hear that April was the month of the military child. This one is particularly close to my heart because my five daughters, ages eight years to ten months, are military brats.

I’m keenly aware of how challenging military life can be for children. Being a military wife is tough -- spending months alone, staring at a phone and hoping that hubby will call from a war zone. Having our joyful reunions clouded by the knowledge that another deployment is around the corner. But for the kids, it's even more difficult.

To my girls, military life includes many disappointments and the harsh reality of having a parent in a dangerous profession. The fact that Daddy’s job involves going to war and that Mommy passes armed guards on a trip to the grocery store is familiar to them. The difficulty of moving six times in five years, and the sadness of leaving BFFs behind (and still asking about them years later) are all part of my daughters’ military days.

My children have changed schools in the middle of the year and missed Dad on most of their birthdays. They wanted Daddy to call during their award presentations in school or when they went to the hospital with pneumonia. They wished Daddy could have been there when we went to Italy to visit my sick grandmother and Delta lost our luggage and cancelled our flight, stranding us in New York City for three days.

My daughters have struggled with his deployments, asking me daily if Daddy would be coming home tomorrow. On my husband’s most recent trip to the desert, my five-year-old even inquired (with a very serious face) if we could move the war to our neighborhood so Daddy could come home at night. When I told her no, my two-year-old interjected that she could travel with Daddy and take her My Little Pony to the war, adding that she would like to have a Dora potty there too.

Mine are not unique stories; every military family has heartbreaking tales of their kids missing a parent. A few months ago, my husband dropped off some cookies I made for a good friend after her husband was deployed. Their two kids were in bed, but they burst from their bedroom, hearing a male voice in the house, and yelling “Daddy!” The sight of my husband’s shaved head in their doorway had them crying uncontrollably.

A dear friend of mine, also a military wife but with teenagers, often tells me that older kids don’t have as hard a time understanding this life, but that they have a different set of struggles. They grow up with a parent who is often absent for their big game, for their prom, for a broken arm, or for their first broken heart.

No matter their age, military children have to be resilient, self-sufficient, and to go with the flow at a young age. Before this month is over, let's remember that the youngest ones also make sacrifices.

So from me to my Tedaldi girls, Thank you!

Anita Tedaldi is a syndicated columnist and freelance journalist. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Philadelphia Inquirer, CNN, BBC, NPR, Yoga Journal and others. Anita is originally from Italy and is married to a pilot with the United States Air Force. Anita is living the American dream one pasta plate and military town at a time. She has co-authored a book, Special Ops Moms: Tales from the Trenches (Adams Media, 2010) and is the subject of a BBC documentary on military living, which will air in December 2010. To find out about Anita go to