October 2, 2007 | By: Katie Pratt

Children of active duty military parents deployed overseas experience a wide array of emotions. In partnership with 4-H, Operation Military Kids is a program designed to help children cope with the loss of a parent due to military service. 

“A lot of kids go through tough times, especially the younger ones because they don’t understand why Mommy or Daddy has to go away for a long period of time,” said Joe Wiley, University of Kentucky grant staff associate for Operation Military Kids. “This program helps them cope with the loss of a parent.”

The loss of a parent due to military service affects children from all across the state, but the largest concentration of children dealing with the loss of a parent due to military duty is in western Kentucky where Fort Campbell and Fort Knox both have numerous service men and women deployed. 

Operation Military Kids uses different avenues to let children of military personnel know they aren’t forgotten by their parent or community, such as the chance to send an e-mail to a parent or share their experiences and emotions with others in the community. 

In one program, children receive supportive materials in packages called Hero Packs. These packs include items designed to help the child cope with and understand the absence of a loved one. Some items included in Hero Packs are books, stuffed animals, hats and a disposable camera. An informative packet for the child’s guardian also is included in the pack. Wiley said in the last two months, program volunteers have distributed approximately 180 Hero Packs throughout the state. 

Operation Military Kids also offers children a chance to talk about and express their feelings through a program called Speak Out For Military Kids. Participating children deliver a short speech in which they discuss feelings and emotions they have experienced because a parent is overseas. 

Wiley said Operation Military Kids also set up a mobile technology lab up at the Kentucky State Fair. The lab provided children an opportunity to use one of four laptops, cameras and printers to connect with their overseas loved one through the Internet. Children could take and print pictures and put them in a mini-album to send to their parent overseas. 

For more information or to get involved in the program, contact any county 4-H youth development extension agent.


Joe Wiley, 859-257-5961 ext. 228