In this age of persistent conflict, one might expect a military-organized symposium on resiliency and behavioral health to focus on service members.
But the recent Military Children and Youth Symposium at Peterson Air Force Base was unique because it focused on service members children, said Kristen Kea, community partnership manager for Fort Carson’s Army Community Services.
“Military kids also have challenges and issues,” said Kea, who helped organize the event in honor of the Month of the Military Child. “They have unbelievable resiliency. It’s a celebration of military youth as well as an opportunity to talk with community members.”
Last week’s symposium was the first time the Mountain Post partnered with other area military installations and organizations such as Military OneSource to host an event that brought attention to military kids.
“Our goal is to energize the community so they walk out with not just a handful of information, but with a call to action,” Kea said. “We know that it takes a whole community of resources to take care of our youth.”
Col. Robert McLaughlin, Carson’s garrison commander, called on the 270 attendees from government agencies, schools and nonprofits to make things happen for young military dependents.
“The real business is what takes us to the next level in taking care of our military kids,” he said. “They’ve truly stepped up to the plate, and we’re obligated to take care of them. We can continue to do more for them.”
Kea said the event was designed to paint a vivid picture of the struggles military children must cope with — especially for educators, who are frequently in a position to “recognize if there are any concerns or appreciate those kids who continue to excel in spite of deployments.”
Army wife Kimberly Henderlong says all four of her children have done just that: excelled despite their father’s six deployments. She attended the symposium to watch her son Joseph Palomba, a cadet commander in Mesa Ridge High School’s Navy ROTC program, participate in the multi-school presentation of colors.
Though he’s adapted well, life as a military kid hasn’t been easy, said Palomba, who used varsity sports and ROTC to keep busy during his dad’s recent yearlong stint in Afghanistan.
“Last deployment I was 17, so I knew exactly what was going on,” he said. “I felt like I had to step up for my siblings and my mom. We’ve been here for the past six to seven years, so the moving part hasn’t been bad recently. The worst part about it is seeing how mom is. Mom gets really, really emotionally upset. And of course there’s the missing him and the fear that something could happen.”
Henderlong said she appreciated the fact that members of Mesa Ridge’s color guard, which usually performs at public events, were asked to perform at a private event — especially one that celebrated military children and recognized their sacrifices.
“The color guard usually presents colors at Pearl Harbor Day, parades, Veteran’s Day, Memorial Day — big events like that,” she said. “I’m glad that they invited the color guard to come and that they selected from different schools, not just one.”
For Palomba, participating in the event held special meaning. It wasn’t just his second-to-last performance before graduating high school and heading to Navy Basic Training this fall. It was also a chance to show those in attendance the discipline and skills he’s learned through life as a military child and his years in ROTC.
“It was an honor, of course, and it reflects on what I’ve been through and what I’ve achieved,” he said. “It felt really good that I was starting off the event not just for me, but for all these kids who are like me in a way.”
Military Family Resources
• Army Community Services Center
• Peterson Airman & Family Readiness Center
• Schriever Airman & Family Readiness Center
• Military OneSource
• The Home Front Cares