Air Force Staff Sgt. Nicole Mickle’s three daughters miss their father.
Tech Sgt. Denoris Mickle deployed to Afghanistan five months ago and isn’t expected to return until May.
The family uses tools such as FaceTime almost daily to create the illusion that they’re all in the same room as the girls, ages 5, 4 and 1, dance and play peek-a-boo with their father.
Mickle said her oldest daughter especially loves to practice reading her favorite books during their time together. However, electronic messages and brief phone calls only go so far to soothe the stinging absence of a parent’s embrace and a goodnight kiss.
Mickle said her daughters learned to be resilient while coping with the sacrifices military families make.
Amid Easter celebrations and the playful freedom of spring break, April also is the Month of the Military Child, a special time for communities to acknowledge these and other challenges children face alongside their parents in the armed forces.
“(The girls) seem to be really good about falling into a routine when one of us is gone, but when we’re out somewhere or doing things like sports, they’ll say, ‘We miss daddy,’ or, ‘We wish daddy was here.’
“Talking about when he gets back and making plans for all the things we’re going to do gives them something to look forward to instead of dwelling on the pain of the moment,” Mickle said.
With her husband overseas, Mickle said she has to wear many hats, including balancing the roles of “nurturer” and “authoritarian.” She said military children also take on extra responsibilities while their parents are deployed, developing skills that often make them more mature than their peers. She said she’s also noticed that moving from place to place has helped her daughters develop social skills.
“I think moving around has actually made it easier on them because they can go into any situation and make friends and become accustomed to it,” Mickle said of her daughters.
Air Force Master Sgt. Ricky Smith of Joint Base Charleston’s 628th Force Support Squadron’s Airman and Family Readiness Center said military children are burdened with moves every 2.9 years on average, and the instability that comes with them, such as new schools, new friends and, if living overseas, new cultures and language barriers.
“Military children also deal with parents’ frequent deployments to war zones and long hours away from home. Technology has helped a great deal in communicating across great distances, but the anxiety and loneliness of being separated is still there,” Smith said in an email.
He said the Month of the Military Child helps children cope by appreciating their “service.”
Joint Base Charleston plans to treat children to several events throughout the month, including patriotic parades, carnivals and movie nights on base.
“Month of the Military Child increases awareness to the local community who may not be aware or think about the sacrifices a military child makes,” Smith said.
Like the Mickles, many military families bond through reading while separated by deployment.
National nonprofit Blue Star Families is celebrating the Month of the Military Child through an essay contest for children to discuss their favorite books to read with their parents.
The organization also promotes literacy by donating books to military children nationwide through its program Books on Bases.
“Reading is an expressive method for (military children). It allows the kids to read stories about other kids that are going through things and see that it’s OK. It also gives them a way to interact with their parents and spend productive family time that way,” said Blue Star Families spokeswoman AnnaMaria White.
For information on Blue Star Families’ essay contest, visit www.bluestarfam.org/blog/view/military-child-essay-contest.
For more on the Month of the Military Child, visit www.defense.gov/home/features/2012/0412_military child.
Reach Christina Elmore at 937-5908.