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Feb 16, 2022 11:49:00 AM

This is why the Armed Services YMCA is here

Military families struggle as parents and spouses are deployed to Eastern Europe

By Nicole P., Program Coordinator, Armed Services YMCA Fort Bragg

I was helping kids with their projects when I noticed Camden standing by the whiteboard all by himself. When I walked over to check on him, he turned to look at me, and I saw that his face was bright red. Concerned, I looked down and noticed that he was wetting his pants, all the way down to his shoes. Something was wrong. Second graders don’t normally have this kind of accident.

Camden and his brother Joseph were participants in our Operation Hero program at Armed Services YMCA Fort Bragg, a free afterschool program that creates a fun and safe environment for kids to receive academic and emotional support to adjust to unique challenges of military life. Those challenges include things like frequent moves and parents being deployed.

This is why Operation Hero is here.

I calmly took Camden into the hallway, and he started crying. I calmed him down and reassured him that everything was okay. I asked him what happened – kids can use the restroom whenever they need to and up until now this was never an issue for him. I was concerned that he was sick.

“No, I’m not sick. Ms. Nicole. I’m ok,” he said.

I reminded him that it was ok to use the restroom whenever he needed. “I know, he said. It’s just that sometimes I need to be reminded. And that’s my dad’s job.”

Camden’s dad had been deployed. Understanding what was happening, we got Camden some clean clothes, and he immediately reconnected with his brother, his spirits lifting.

When mom came to pick up the boys, I explained what had happened. Mom broke down in tears. “I’m doing the best I can to keep everything together. Homework. Housework. Meals. Snacks. Baths. Brushing Teeth. Working full time. I never thought to remind him to use the bathroom before we left the house.”

What deployment - and rapid deployment - means for families

When soldiers enlist to serve our country, their families serve, too. And when a soldier deploys, spouses must keep their households running alone, often on a new base where they don’t know many people and have a limited support system, if any. Older kids step in to help, assuming new, more demanding roles in the family. It’s a team effort, and it can be overwhelming and exhausting. Then there is the additional worry of a loved one being overseas in potentially dangerous situations.

The Armed Services YMCA is here to support entire families. Knowing Dad was deployed, and Mom was struggling, we helped Camden and Joseph enjoy stress-free time where they could be kids. It was a time when Joseph, the older brother, didn’t have to feel responsible for his younger sibling. We also did little things to help mom – provided food, called to check in, and made sure she knew we were there for her and her children.

This month, as soldiers are deployed to Eastern Europe with little to no notice, it’s even more important that kids and families know we’re here for them. During this difficult time, the Armed Services YMCA will make sure kids have an environment where they can make friends and be mentored by staff who understand their unique situation.

Service members will bravely and honorably answer our country’s call to duty with the knowledge that their family is being cared for thanks to generous donors like you.

As a military spouse, I see first-hand the impact that we have every day. These services are offer at no-cost or low-cost to military families because of generous donations from people like you. Please give today. These families need our help now more than ever before.