Free Screening: Coming Back with Wes Moore

Executive producer Wes Moore.

Executive producer Wes Moore.

What’s it like for combat veterans to be on the battlefield one week and trying to fit back into their local community the next week?

Reintegration is the challenge for many service members who are returning home and entering the civilian world. And it’s the topic of a new PBS series.

Army veteran and executive producer Wes Moore will be in Tampa Wednesday, April 30, 2014, for a screening of his three-part series, “Coming Home with Wes Moore.”

The screening is scheduled at the Tampa Theater and will be followed by a discussion panel with Moore, local Army veteran Taylor Urruela, Bank of America Senior Military Affairs Executive Jeff Cathey, and Tampa Tribune military reporter Howard Altman.

The documentary screening is free and open to the public. Seating is limited and RSVP is requested at www.wedu.org/comingbackwithwesmoore.

The PBS series premieres on WEDU Channel 3, May 13 at 8 p.m. and later this summer on WUSF Channel 16 in Tampa.

 

Helping Military Children Reconnect After Deployment

April is the Month of the Military Child. What better time to share research that looks at how a child’s school grades are impacted by a parents’ deployments.

Fifth graders at MacDill Air Force Base go through a "mock" deployment to better understand what their parents go through when deploying.

The Rand Report: Effects of Soldiers’ Deployment on Children’s Academic Performance and Behavioral Health finds that children whose parent deployed for 19 months or more since 2001 had modestly lower academic scores across all subjects.

On that note, below is an entry from the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health & Traumatic Brain Injury on helping children and returned parents reconnect.

Posted by Dr. James Bender, Psychologist on April 13, 2011

Hello. April is the Month of the Military Child, so I think it’s appropriate to write about a topic that not only affects service members, but their kids too.

Without question, the best part of deployment is coming home. But even after a joyful reunion, the weeks and months after homecoming can pose special challenges for your children, no matter their ages:

  • Infants and small children (ages 0 to 3): may not remember you or be uncomfortable around you; like you’re a stranger. This is not abnormal and will diminish after a few weeks. Spending time with your child and generally being an active parent will help.
  • Middle-age children (ages 4 to 12): may be overly clingy and affectionate, often because they’re afraid you’re going to leave again. Just be patient and explain that even though you’re leaving for work in the morning, you’ll be back in the evening. Constant reassurance should help with this problem. Also, make near-future plans with them, like a picnic in two days or playing catch in the yard when you come home from work. This will both reassure them that you’ll be back soon and allow for quality time together.
  • Teenagers: may be distant or even hurtful, accusing you of abandoning them. Teen angst (there have been many books written on the subject) needs an outlet, and your deployment offers a good opportunity for them to vent. Try not to take it personally—I know this will be hard to do sometimes. Recognize that they have suffered because of your absence even though they didn’t volunteer for service. All families, military or not, have hardships that children must endure. Resist the temptation to make it up to them by buying expensive gifts. Giving them your time will be better for both them and your bank account. Also, try not to disrupt their schedule too much; respect that they have sports and activities with friends that are important to them.

MacDill AFB fifth graders line up and await orders to enter a hangar where stations are set up simulating deployment stops their parents must make.

While you’re considering your children’s challenges, be sure to be honest with yourself about any difficulties you may be experiencing. Your parenting will suffer if you’re in need of help and not getting it. Problems concentrating, anxiety, withdrawing from others, excessive drinking and trembling hands, are just a few of the symptoms of combat stress. Seek professional help if these symptoms continue or have an impact on your day-to-day functioning.

A good resource to keep in mind is afterdeployment.org, a website that has content directed to service members and their families about some of the challenges that are often faced following a deployment. You can also check out my post Helping Children Cope with Deployments for more on this topic.

Most children, and their parents, are resilient and bounce back just fine after a few weeks. But consider contacting your installation Family Advocacy Program (FAP) if you have any problems. Regardless of age, you want to send the same message: your kids are special and important and you’re committed to them.

Thanks to you, and your children, for your service.

“My Daddy Come Home”

Friends help Jackie Dorr decorate the house for her husband's homecoming from his fouth deployment in their five years together.

I woke up thinking – it was finally happening. It was the day I get my family back!  My house buzzed with activity – all my friends and their children – as we did last minute cleaning preparing for my husband’s return.

Then came word, his last connection from Bangor, Maine was delayed. For a moment, it felt like it wasn’t going to happen.

As I did my hair and makeup, I couldn’t help but feel like it was my wedding day, and I was readying to see my groom.   We dressed the girls in their custom made dresses and their ruby red slippers, as Paisley calls them her “special come home Daddy shoes” and loaded up the car.

Paisley wanted to wear lipstick too for her Daddy's homecoming.

While everyone walked downstairs, I collected myself, and laid out the gifts I had gotten him to make up for missing Christmas, our anniversary and Valentines Day.  The whole drive to the compound, Krista calmed my nerves letting me know how amazingly happy she was for our family.

When we got to the compound, the bay was not quite ready but that didn’t matter, we would wait for hours if need be.  Paisley kicked off her shoes and ran around the CSD Bay, getting her little feet so dirty, but it didn’t matter she was excited and this made me happy.

Members of the MacDill Enlisted Spouses Club are known for their bright red shirts and for showing up for every homecoming not matter the time or number of returning troops.

Then 1600 came, and my phone rang. He had landed and they were getting on the buses heading to the compound.  It seemed unreal! “A bus just pulled up” Krista tells me.

We line up as close as we can, I can’t wait to see his face, and the thought of it brings tears to my eyes.  Paisley stands holding my hand, and then the door to the bay opens.  The silence is palpable as all the families stand waiting.  They march in one by one.  I kneel down next to Paisley and she sees him. “DADDY!! MY DADDY!! MAMA THAT’S MY DADDY!”

The Joint Communications Support Element, based at MacDill AFB.

The troops line up in formation, and we listen to first the 1Sgt and then Lt Col Burnham as they speak about their performance during this deployment, all the while Paisley stood confused.  She kept saying “Mama I want my Daddy”.  Then the words we waited for, he was released. 

I took off running towards where Brian was standing. He wasn’t there.  I turned and saw he ran around everyone the other direction towards us.  Paisley jumped into his arms “DADDY!!!”  Tears flowed down my cheeks as I watched my husband hold our oldest “princess. ” He kissed her and told her how much he missed her.

It didn't take long for Anastin, 8 months, to fall asleep in her Daddy's arms.

This was a stark difference to his last homecoming. Last time, she was terrified of him, this time she was so excited.  I was holding Anastin, and she was looking at Brian and Paisley, no doubt trying to figure it all out.  She turned 8 months this day, and for 7 months of her life her father has been gone.  I ask him if he wants to hold her, and warn him that she might cry as she has horrible separation anxiety.  He answers yes, and we swap children.

Anastin whimpered slightly but then was quiet. He kissed her and she took it all in.  Before we knew it, she had fallen asleep in her fathers arms.  Life is good, this is how it should be, a father holding his children.

Paisley has been attached to Brian’s hip since. He has been home, playing dress up and reading books.  She loves her Daddy and is enjoying having him home. 

SSG Brian Dorr plays with Paisley, his 2-year-old daughter, after returning from a seven-month deployment.

He has already returned to work, and at first she was upset by this, but he comes home for lunch and is home at night, which eases her concern.  We are taking life one step at a time, reintegration is never easy, and always comes with unique challenges.  A two year old can be overwhelming alone, but topped with an 8 month old with separation anxiety.  We take each day as it comes, and are all soaking in every second of having our family complete again.

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