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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Military Families Say That Military Children Are the Forgotten Victims of the Iraq War
While April Is Deemed 'Month of the Military Child'
NATIONWIDE - April 2 - Celeste Zappala's grief over her son's death is compounded by the pain of watching her grandson grow up without a father.
"When I see my grandson, now 14 years old, and looking more like his Dad everyday, I ache for the years of a loving Father he has lost." said Zappala,Philadelphia, PA whose son, Sgt. Sherwood Baker, was killed in Iraq on April 26, 2004, "His Dad died in Iraq five years ago, and he is navigating growing to manhood with out the best role model there could ever be. I look at this quiet, guarded boy and think he did not agree to lose his father in a senseless war, and yet his loss has turned out to be the greatest sacrifice of all."
As we enter April, the "Month of the Military Child," Zappala and other members of Military Families Speak Out (MFSO) are reflecting on the toll the war in Iraq has taken on children growing up in military families.
Annie McCabe of Minneapolis, MN, who serves on MFSO's Board of Directors, stated,
"My husband deployed when my son was 16-months-old, and we were told by both the Army and any 'experts' I could find that he was too young to notice what was going on. They weren't the ones waking up in the middle of the night to broken-hearted cries of 'Daddy!' or spending the next 16 months literally peeling a toddler off their neck every time they needed time alone. When my husband was home on leave and people would thank him for his service, I wanted to scream at them 'Thank my son!' He's paying the highest price.
"Two years later, we're still dealing with the repercussions: age-inappropriate separation anxiety, crying some nights before bed that Mom or Dad will get on an airplane and never come home. Even at four, I cannot explain to him that Daddy never wanted to leave him, but did. That it won't happen again; that he can relax and be four. We're one of the lucky military families - we're not facing another deployment. This has been incredibly hard, and will remain with him for the rest of his life."
The sons and daughters of service-members are not the only American children suffering as a result of the war in Iraq -- children also suffer when their sisters and brothers are sent to war. Elaine Brower, another member of Military Families Speak Out from Staten Island . New York is the mother of a Marine Corps Reservist now serving in Iraq. She has watched her son's three deployments -- two to Iraq and one to Afghanistan -- take a heavy toll on her daughter. Brower said,
"My son and daughter were inseparable as kids. They slept in the same room until they were pre-teens, sharing a bunk bed and laughing all night, until I really needed to get some rest. My daughter loved her older brother, and he was her companion, since I was a single mom for a very long time. She followed him around as a toddler, up until he enlisted in the Marine Corps. at the age of 17, she was 15. When he was first deployed, she became a changed daughter and sibling. At 17 she locked herself in her room, became totally unsocial with everyone, and always sullen. She started writing dark stories and painted sad pictures. Her response to his calls home were in anger, she wouldn't speak with him. Now, on his third tour, my daughter, although 25, cries at the mention of her brother. To her credit, she became a high school teacher, but remains sullen and sad. Reality hit her at a very young age, and changed her forever."
McCabe remains deeply concerned about the continuing impact of the war in Iraq on military children
"By continuing the Iraq War, not only are we causing bodily and mental harm to our troops and the people of Iraq, and spending money we don't have, we're causing long term psychological damage to a generation of military kids - damage we clearly don't understand. Kids are facing parents' multiple deployments like never before, and living in a world that doesn't understand their struggles, because most Americans are barely aware of the war that is at home every night for military families."
Members of Military Families Speak Out and Gold Star Families Speak Out are available for interview.