Military Child Advocates Challenge America to Care for Our Nation’s Youngest Heroes at With You All the Way! Homecoming, Transition, and Resilience Symposium

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National Experts Talk About What Happens After Homecoming and Building Resiliency in Military Families Following a Decade of War

Military core values don’t stop at the front door. To be in a military family is a great gift and I think it’s important for us to frame the positive things as well as the challenges.

Advocates for our nation’s youngest heroes challenged Americans to take action and support military children at the With You All the Way! Symposium Series. The event brought together a panel of experts to discuss issues confronting our military kids as they now face life after a decade of war. The annual event, sponsored by the http:Comfort Crew for Military Kids, is designed to educate and inform the public about the unique challenges faced by military children. This installment, the second in the series, was held at the USO Warrior and Family Center at Fort Belvoir in Virginia and focused on the post-deployment phase and how families reintegrate and build resiliency

“We are a team,” said Dr. Mary M. Keller, panelist and President and CEO of the Military Child Education Coalition. “It shouldn’t be just the military’s job to take care of military kids. It’s our job. These are America’s kids. ”

The panel, moderated by Bianca Martinez, military spouse, mother of two and news anchor for WTKR in Norfolk, Virginia, included Trevor Romain USO tour veteran and Co-Founder of the Comfort Crew for Military Kids, Dr. Mary Keller Co-Founder and CEO of the Military Child Education Coalition, Lydia L. Marek, Director of Family and Community Research Lab at Virginia Tech, Lieutenant Colonel Brian Zarchin of Fort Belvoir, and Alison Simerly a military child who is preparing for her father to leave on his sixth deployment. During the hour long event, video testimonials and candid interviews with military children and families were interspersed into the conversation to help tell the story of the more than 1.2 million children with a parent in the military.

Communication and patience were common themes echoed by all in attendance. Panelists discussed the need to provide military children with an opportunity to express their feelings in their own way. As Romain noted, many children don’t know how to communicate with an adult and are afraid to ask their parent about their deployment. Families were encouraged to be patient with their returning soldier as they may need time to find their place in the family’s normal routine. Dr. Marek also stressed the need for continuing research to help military children in this new post-deployment phase. The panelists all agreed; the end of the war doesn’t signify an end to challenges for military children, but the beginning of an entirely new set of obstacles as families face the challenge of reuniting and becoming a family again.

“We don’t’ even know how long the reintegration process really lasts. A lot of the research is done in the first 90 days. Well, the first 90 days is still considered somewhat of a honeymoon period,” said Dr. Merek. “What would build resiliency? What would help them do better?”

Alison Simerly, now 20 years old, has recognized a cycle of feelings that she experiences when he dad returns home from deployment. “I always felt this combination of heaviness and buoyancy. There is this initial outpouring of relief and joy and then it’s followed by all the issues that accompany reintegration,” said Simerly. “You expect to feel this immediately restored sense of normalcy and that is just not the case. It takes awhile to come back. There is some stilted communication. You get used to them being gone and you develop a routine and it’s difficult to add them back in to that routine.”

The panel also reminded the audience that military children are by nature, resilient, and they should embrace the community of support from their military and civilian peers.

“Military core values don’t stop at the front door. To be in a military family is a great gift and I think it’s important for us to frame the positive things as well as the challenges,” said Dr. Keller. “Let’s tell the story of being a part of our heritage our American heritage and what your family has contributed.”

The With You All the Way! Symposium: Homecoming, Transition and Resilience is one of many events the Comfort Crew and USO will offer for military families during April, nationally recognized as month of the Military Child. Contact the Comfort Crew at info(at)comforcrew(dot)org to obtain a copy of the recorded symposium and learn more about future events. Resources for parents are also available at or through local USO Centers.


About The Comfort Crew for Military Kids
The Comfort Crew for Military Kids is a non-profit organization that supports thousands of military kids each year through programs and advocacy events designed to strengthen their social and emotional resilience. Founded in 2007, The Comfort Crew creates a world where kids feel supported while managing the challenges of today’s military life including deployment, reintegration, moving, visible and invisible injuries and grief.

In partnership with the USO (United Service Organizations), co-founder Trevor Romain and The Comfort Crew work directly with military children on and off bases all over the world. Military kids and their families are offered a wide variety of comfort kits and educational resources that are customized to meet their specific needs and let them know – we are With You All the Way! To learn more about The Comfort Crew for Military Kids, please visit

About the USO
The USO lifts the spirits of America¹s troops and their families millions of times each year at hundreds of places worldwide. We provide a touch of home through centers at airports and military bases in the U.S. and abroad, top quality entertainment and innovative programs and services. We also provide critical support to those who need us most, including forward-deployed troops, military families, wounded warriors and families of the fallen. The USO is a private, non-profit organization, not a government agency. Our programs and services are made possible by the American people, support of our corporate partners and the dedication of our volunteers and staff.

In addition to individual donors and corporate sponsors, the USO is supported by President’s Circle Partners: American Airlines, AT&T, Clear Channel, The Coca-Cola Company, jcpenney, Jeep, Kangaroo Express, Kroger, Lowe’s, Northrop Grumman Corporation, Procter & Gamble, and TriWest Healthcare Alliance and Worldwide Strategic Partners: BAE Systems, The Boeing Company, Lockheed Martin, Microsoft Corporation and TKS Telepost Kabel-Service Kaiserslautern GmbH & Co. KG. We are also supported through the United Way and Combined Federal Campaign (CFC-11381). To join us in this patriotic mission, and to learn more about the USO, please visit

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