Month of the Military Child Has Deeper
Meaning for Wounded Warrior Families
(May 5, 2009)
Army Secretary Pete Geren meets with Elizabeth Harris, left, and Abby Smith, children of wounded soldiers, April 29, 2009, during a visit to the Warrior Family Support Center, Fort Sam Houston, Texas, in observance of the Month of the Military Child. Geren applauded the contributions made by the children in supporting the recovery of their parents.
FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas, April 30, 2009
The road to recovery for a wounded soldier
can be long and difficult, but with the help of Army
medicine and the love of military spouses and children, that
road is shorter and smoother.
For some soldiers who use the Warrior Family Support Center
here, their sons and daughters have played an instrumental
role in their recovery as wounded veterans.
Soldiers and their families use the center at no cost to
them while they receive care at Brooke Army Medical Center
here. Through peer and community support and recreational
activities, the center provides a high-quality setting for
the whole family as they return to normal life.
Reestablishing family responsibilities is
critical to the recovery of many soldiers. At least 1.7
million American children have at least one parent serving
in the military with an estimated 900,000 of those with
parents who have deployed multiple times overseas. |
On April 29, Army Secretary Pete Geren expressed his
personal appreciation to a group of children of wounded
warriors at the center.
"The Army is asking a lot of you all and I hope that we are
doing everything we can to help you and your parents," Geren
Abby Smith, 10, the daughter of Spc. Jourdan Smith, an
infantryman who served with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd
Infantry Division of Fort Lewis, Wa., knows first-hand the
hardships family members can face supporting their wounded
"When I first got injured, she didn't want to look at me,
and I used to have to make fun of my injuries to try to
cheer her up," said Smith, recalling how he told his
daughter the wounds on his leg looked like train tracks.
"She had a hard time dealing with my situation at first, but
now she helps me more than I can believe.
"It was like she went from 8 to 18 in just two years."
Abby was 8, and her brother was 10 months old, when her
father was injured by gunfire while serving in Iraq. She
felt sorry for her father as well as for her mother who
stepped up to take care of the whole family. So Abby
contributed by helping her dad exercise his knee and by
bringing him blankets on cold days and ice on warm days.
The crucial role spouses and children play in the recovery
of injured soldiers is not lost on the Smith family, who
also remember the days before the injury when Smith could
play a more active role in the life of his daughter.
"Before I could run and play with her, but now I have to sit
and watch," Smith said. "She has done incredible though and
will help me tie my shoes or clear the table for me."
But the sacrifices Abby has made to help her father are
larger than just helping around the house. Abby was forced
to miss a lot of school after her father's injury, and
eventually had to be taken out of public school in favor of
"There are so many times I feel like I can't do anything,
and there Abby is to help me out with whatever I need,"
Smith said. "She is my life, and I feel like I owe my life
Their story is not uncommon. Staff Sgt. Shilo Harris, a
Soldier recovering at BAMC, suffered burns on 35 percent of
his body, and credits his daughter as the inspiration for
his hugely successful recovery. His youngest child,
Elizabeth, was four years old at the time, and when Harris
was discharged on an outpatient status, Elizabeth assisted
her mother with his daily care.
Since 1986, the Defense Department has recognized the
sacrifices and applauded the courage of military children by
designating April as the Month of the Military Child.
By Army SSgt. Matthew Clifton
Special to American Forces Press Service
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