As an Army brat now Marine wife and a card-carrying DoD dependent almost all my life, I believe this study and the way it’s being reported needs some push back.
I mean, should we really believe 10,000 teenagers told the truth on a survey?
The results, nevertheless widely reported last week, inspired headlines such as “Military children could become violent.”
To add some balance, I didn’t have time to do a legitimate study such as the one reported by the AP, but I did ask some Army and Marine wives what they thought.
Not one of them believes the study is an accurate reflection of military kids.
My friend Kate Reynolds of Acworth is married to Army Col. George Reynolds, who’s been deployed seven times since 2003. Their kids, aged 26, 23, 21, 18 and 16 are successful in life. One is an Army second lieutenant, serving proudly. Another is politically active, attending the University of Alabama. Her 23-year-old is a college grad earning six figures and just purchased a home.
“My children are successful,” Kate says, “because they have a dad in the military who’s taught them goals and excellence and who sets an example. He expects them to do their best.”
She’s not bragging, just telling it how it is, and emphasizes she doesn’t know any military family of any rank whose children don’t strive.
My friend Mary Katherine Davenport is married to Maj. Richard Davenport, who’s been deployed multiple times in this war. She also writes an incredibly beautiful account of her life with five daughters at http://www.fivegirlsthearmyandme.blogspot.com/. Her tagline is, “Discovering grace and joy in the trenches.” I recommend you go there for information on her project --Operation Stalwart Holiday 2011. She and her daughters are sending 1,000 holiday packages to deployed soldiers by November 15th (I guess the girls put their gang activity on hold for the holidays).
Mary Katherine writes that her oldest daughter, at 13, is on level three Rosetta Stone for Chinese language and got a 99% on her IOWA skills test last year. I had asked her to help me show you examples of the Army kids she knows and their achievements.
“I know some amazing kids,” she writes, explaining that hers, at even young ages, understand sacrifice unlike their civilian counterparts. And they don’t grumble and complain, she emphasizes.
“They shake it off and carry on,” she says, reminding me that even though they didn’t sign up, they serve their country.
“Sure there are some troubled kids out there. And sure 10 years at war has not helped those kids. But there are plenty out there who rise above it all, day after day, year after year. I've got five of those kids.”
“There are far worse influences to violence and broken homes than a parent deployed,” she reminds. “And if you're going to point out the negative, you sure as heck better point out those rising above.”
In addition to their understanding of service, M.K. says, “My kids, like many military kids, have a stronger sense of geography and language because of the nature of moves and intermixing with other cultures than their civilian counterparts. They are the true heroes of my life.”
Mama bears aside, we all know some teens are going to get into trouble, no matter who their parents are.
Fort Stewart is the Georgia home of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, the largest Army installation east of the Mississippi. Last school year there were 13,167 students enrolled in the Liberty School District in nearby Hinesville. Approximately 3,255 kids belonged to active duty military parents and 9,912 came from non-military families.
According to Assistant superintendent Mary Alexander, there were 14,629 discipline referrals for the year; 3,776 were from the military side of the house and 10,853 were from the civilian side.
Certainly not all referrals were violence related, among either group of kids. But just a quick look reveals a very different picture from the Washington self-reported study. In fact, it seems to suggest that kids are kids in Hinesville when it comes to rate of referrals, a much more believable reality.