Military Kids Look to Extracurricular Activities to Cope With Parents' Deployment

But despite her father's frequent tours of duty, Jasmine said each deployment still requires a major transition for her and her family.

"Everything just stops. When you walk into your house, you expect to see that person there, but then there's nothing," she said. "And it's really quiet the first few days. It's just quiet."

To cope with her father's absence, Jasmine fills her time with extracurricular and service activities. The straight-A student, who participates in her school's newspaper and the Spanish club, has also been involved in gymnastics for almost 12 years.

But in these activities, her father is never far from mind: Jasmine wrote a special article in her school's Wildcat News about children of deployed servicemen, and she has volunteered on initiatives to collect phone cards for American troops and raise scholarship money for children of fallen soldiers.

Jasmine's mother, Nicole, said her husband's deployments have forced her and Jasmine to learn to share their military family member with the rest of the nation.

"I tell every person: I don't wish this on anyone. But I do what I have to do because of my husband's decision to serve his country," she said. "It's hard, but you know, you give yourself two or three days to cry, you pick yourself up, you go forth and do what you have to do."

The 'Month of the Military Child'

April has been the "Month of the Military Child" since its Department of Defense designation in 1986.

Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden this year marked the occasion with a message of encouragement to children of deployed service members. The pair appeared in an April 7 video posting on the White House Web site, in which they acknowledged the sacrifices which military kids must make as they share a service member parent with the nation.

"Every day, these extraordinary young people shoulder responsibilities and worries that make them wise beyond their years," said Biden, whose son, Beau, is a member of the Delaware National Guard.

The message comes two months after Obama's January announcement that the president's 2011 budget includes $8.8 billion to support military families -- an increase of more than 3 percent from last year's fiscal budget.

The funding allotted $1.9 billion to military family counseling and support services, as well as $1.3 billion for military child care and $14 million for housing and youth programs.

"As a grateful nation, it is our sacred responsibility to stand by our military children, just as they and their families stand by us," Obama said in the video. "President Obama is committed to ensuring that this administration does everything it can to support our military children."

'A Moment to Be Tougher'

While her father served in Kosovo, Valerie kept his memory alive at home.

In addition to creating a bulletin board about Kosovo at her school, Valerie spearheaded a school-wide adopt-a-soldier program to send items to overseas troops.

The first-grader also frequently visited Juan Gonzalez's mother -- who fought cancer -- in the hospital to provide support during Gonzalez's deployment.

Tragedy struck the family in October 2009 when, on the final flight of his deployment, Gonzalez's mother died. The Gonzalez family met Gonzalez for his arrival in the United States and went directly to begin funeral preparations -- a situation that made Denise Gonzalez appreciate the lessons learned during his deployment.

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