Over 35 children of deployed Luke Air Force Base personnel enjoyed a day at Rocker 7 Farm Patch in Buckeye compliments of Peoria’s American Legion Auxiliary, 9847 W. Desert Cove Ave. This is the fourth year that the Auxiliary has hosted this event.
“We know that families of deployed military are also serving their country and we want to recognize that service,” Litchfield Park resident Mikaela Anderson, and Children and Youth Chairman at Unit 62 said. Unit 62 holds a number of events throughout the year for deployed families; events such as pottery painting, holiday light displays, trampoline parties and holiday parties.
The Thompson family, who attended the event, is preparing for their first deployment. Staff Sergeant Will Thompson, a K-9 handler, will be deployed to a warzone in January. His companion Ffrida will be deployed as well. In addition to leaving his wife, Sarah, and his 3-year-old daughter, Lilly, he is expected to miss the birth of his second child.
Being without local family members is just one of the challenges that many “home-front parents” face. Sarah is from northern Virginia while SSgt Thompson is from Maryland.
“We met because he was stationed with the Air Force Honor Guard at Bolling Air Force Base in Washington D.C.--we met at a country line dancing bar and have been two-stepping through life together ever since,” Ms. Thompson said.
Arriving in Arizona three years ago, this was the Thompsons’ first duty station away from their families. Sarah grew up in the military (affectionately referred to as an “Army Brat”), so she is used to adapting to change. She found a wives’ kickball league and some of her closest friends there. But knowing that her husband will be serving in a warzone-- the family has decided to go back home.
“Our visits to family across country are scarce, so this will be a great opportunity for Lilly and the new baby to get to experience their extended family,” Ms. Thompson said.
Leaving new-found friends is another challenge that deployed families face. The average military family will move six to nine times, according to the Department of Defense Education Activity.
“Making new friends and creating a support system is bittersweet. Once you find your best friends, you-- or they-- end up moving a couple years later,” Ms. Thompson explained. “But I truly wouldn’t have it any other way. I would have never met the amazing men, women and children without the military moving us here. It also showed me how strong I was being uprooted from the life I had known for over 30 years –able to make a new one I love just as much across the country.”
Nationally, there are 1.82 million children of military service members in U.S. communities. Not only do these children face separation of a parent who may be deployed multiple times for extended periods of their childhood, they also undergo the challenges of often moving.
The American Legion Auxiliary honors these military families through their Children and Youth program. In addition to providing local support, the Auxiliary also provides scholarship opportunities for these families. To help the effort email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit azpost62.com.
Editor’s note: Marge Christianson is the public relations volunteer for American Legion Auxiliary John J Morris Unit 62 in Peoria.