Sisterhood of the Traveling BDUs

October 8, 2013 Updated: October 8, 2013 at 3:57 pm

When Moranda Hern's dad was deployed to Afghanistan, not all of her teachers were supportive.

At least one was downright cruel.

"There was one in particular who said that all officers are just out for a head count, that the war was illegal," said Hern, now a senior at the Air Force Academy.

At the time, Hern was 15. Her father, California Air National Guard Director of Staff Col. Rick Hern, was on his first combat deployment.

"I was already worrying about my dad coming home, and then to be told, 'Hey, this is what I think about what your dad is risking his life for,' was really hard," she said.

"I was always worrying when the phone would ring that something had happened."

Hern became increasingly stressed and introverted - and increasingly aware that she wasn't alone.

She made headlines in 2009 when she founded the Sisterhood of the Traveling BDUs - a nonprofit that provides moral support to the teenage daughters of service members - with fellow military "brat" Kaylei Deakin.

The two had met at a women's leadership conference hosted by Maria Schriver while they were sophomores at different California high schools.

"I had one of those 'aha!' moments coming home from the conference, having seen women empower each other and support each other," Hern said. "It struck me that military girls needed something like that: a forum, a community to reach out to when those nights get long and those phone calls become further and further apart."

After a year of planning and fundraising, Hern and Deakin launched their nonprofit and its website,

Initially, the nonprofit focused on connecting California teen girls from military families in person via a conference and regional get-togethers.

But planning events for more than a hundred attendees consumed a lot of time - time that Hern didn't have after she entered the Air Force Academy in 2010.

Deakin became busier too after she enlisted in the Marines.

The young women decided to focus their efforts on cultivating the website's online support forum, which was capable of reaching more girls more often than conferences could.

"As a military kid, you move all the time," Hern said. "This gives girl an avenue to connect and keep up those relationships, to talk about issues pressuring them in a safe forum."

Hern continues to run the nonprofit's website while juggling her duties as cadet wing commander at the academy.

After graduating in May, Hern hopes to become a pilot. Then she'll join the real sisterhood of the traveling BDUs - or ABUs, or whatever the latest Air Force combat uniform is.

"I've grown up seeing my dad love his job and love serving our country," she said.

"I'm excited that I'll be able to join the big team and do that in the Air Force."

The way Hern sees it, she has been serving her country as a military child her whole life.

"I think military kids, spouses and families serve, too, just in different capacities," she said.

"I feel really blessed that everything has come full circle for me."

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