Redeployment photo.jpg
(Photo Retrieved from

"Students of Military Families"

by Christopher Van Houten


Many civilians are unfamiliar with the unique nature and challenges of the military. The distinct history and traditions of the military; the dress, language, enlisted and officer rank and insignia, and the lifestyle of moving every 2-3 years may seem foreign to those who have not experienced military service. The transient lifestyle of military personnel not only impacts family life but also their children’s education. Military children generally move six to nine times during their K-12 school years, which forces them to say goodbye to best friends on a regular basis (Military, 2014). The United States military is a force made up of Active and Reserve components from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and the Coast Guard. Children of military members can be from the active duty or reserve units and due to this fact, they can live on or near a large military base or they can come from anywhere within the United States. There are hundreds of military bases within the United States and worldwide. Students may have one or both parents in the military, and oftentimes children are sent to live with a relative or guardian during times of deployment. Many children of military families have experienced numerous deployments, while others may be experiencing their first deployment due to the two recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Regardless, the stresses of deployment creates many problems, concerns, and issues for students – military children and their friends (Military Kids Connect, 2014).

As of 2011, more than 800,000 parents of school-age children have been deployed by the U.S. military to various locations around the world. Any separation of a service member from his or her family is considered a deployment, but most people associate a deployment with combat. For the purposes of this article, this wiki is aligned with the general census. Many parents have deployed more than once and sometimes for extended periods of time, especially the U.S. Army who often deploy for 12 months at a time. Between 2007 and 2009, there was a need for a military surge of troops in Iraq that caused the U.S. Army to extend deployments to 15 months. As a result, increasing numbers of students experience significant distress on a daily basis and are at an increased risk for behavioral problems, decreased academic performance, and emotional challenges (National Association of School Psychologists, 2011).

Deployments cause stress due to change for both the service member and the family that are left behind. Regardless of the length of the deployment, the family will have to redistribute family roles and often times the parent left behind, male or female, takes on the role of father and mother. This in turn adds stressors to that parent because he/she is left to handle things like finances, the maintenance of the house and car, the care and discipline of children, or other issues that he/she normally may not perform. Oftentimes young families return to the location of their parents or the deployed soldier’s parents so they can be closer to their family origin for morale support and for assistance with other needs. These moves are made to reduce costs and to add to the psychological and physical support needed to keep the family going. Most students and their families will be able to adjust to a “new normal” after the departure of a spouse or parent. However, some students who are fragile or who have had previous social or emotional problems are at a heightened risk for emotional distress during the separation period and their ability to function in the school remains compromised.

Video Provided by Military Child Education Coalition

Trend or Issue?

Trends and issues tend to have blurred lines. What does this mean? Well oftentimes many things may start off as trends and if left unchecked will morph into an issue. The best thing to do at this time is to define “trend” and “issue” to get a better understanding of what these two mean in order to make an informed decision. According to Macmillan Dictionary Online (Macmillan Publishers Limited, 2013), a trend is “a gradual change or development that produces a particular result.” Furthermore, an issue is defined as “1. a subject that people discuss or argue about, especially relating to society, politics, etc.” and “1a. a problem that needs to be considered.” In this particular subject matter, 1a is the better definition to use as the definition of an issue because the social or emotional problems that lead to a heightened risk of emotional distress of a student during a separation period from deployment becomes an issue that needs to be considered.


  • September 14, 2011 – U.S. Congress passes resolution authorizing President Bush "to use all necessary and appropriate force" against the perpetrators of the Sept. 11 attacks, their sponsors, and those who protected them. The bill passes the Senate by a vote of 98-0 and the House by a vote of 420-1.
  • October 7, 2001 - The U.S. military, with British support, begins an airstrike bombing campaign against Taliban forces, officially launching Operation Enduring Freedom.
  • In March 2002, the US and NATO and other non-NATO forces launched Operation Anaconda, which was the first major ground assault consisting of nearly two thousand U.S. and one thousand Afghan troops. Between 2002 and 2006, the in-country troop strength grew from 5,200 to 20,400. The highest in-country troop strength was in 2009 at 63,500.
  • In March 2003, President George W. Bush deploys over 100,000 soldiers to Iraq for Operation Iraqi Freedom.
  • At the beginning of January 2007, there were 132,000 in-country U.S. forces in Iraq alone. On January 10th, President Bush officially announced a troop surge of 21,500 service members. By March 20th, U.S. troop strength is 153,000 (Washington Post, 2007). Troop Surge Photo.jpg P7240051.JPG First MRAP ride convoying to Seddah, Iraq.JPG
  • April 5, 2007, the National Guard announces they are deploying 12,000 more troops to Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • The highest in-country U.S. troop strength in Iraq was 157,800 in 2008.
  • Although the numbers cited for in-country U.S. “boots on the ground” were the measure of troop strength, those numbers did not include the over 100,000 additional troops deployed in the region that provided theater-wide support for Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. At the height of the war in Afghanistan and the war in Iraqi, 294,000 troops were deployed for Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) Iraq.

Note: Statistical data was provided by the research conducted by the Washington Post (2007) and the Congressional Research Service (2009).



Here are a few statistical examples of issues that children of military families face today because of these trends:
  • “The number of children with deployed military parents seeking outpatient care for mental health concerns doubled from 1 million in 2003 to 2 million in 2008” (Hefling, 2009).
  • “Students with deployed military parents experience significantly higher rates of behavior problems than their peers” (Flake, Davis, & Johnson, 2009).
  • “Academic performance (as measured by test scores) tends to be lower during parental deployment” (Engel, Gallagher, & Lyle, 2010).
  • “Children of military families are twice as likely as those from nonmilitary families to report elevated anxiety” (Rand, 2010).
  • “Rates of child maltreatment and neglect increase during parental deployment because of added stress on the remaining caregiver (Rentz et al., 2007), which can lead to additional negative academic and behavioral outcomes for students.”
  • “Military families tend to experience increased school mobility, which poses a threat to achievement and increases the drop-out risk” (Kerbow, 1996; U.S. Government Accounting Office, 1994).

Note: All statistical data was provided by the research conducted by The National Association of School Psychologists. “Principal Leadership: Supporting Students from Military Families” (2011).

With the fact that over 2 million students have had parents deployed since the start of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, many of these students experience academic issues from the receiving school district when these students move. Some schools are doing excellent in creating a welcoming and supportive school setting, but more schools need to increase their awareness and programs to better support these transferring students. Some of these military students lose credit for courses they already took in another state after a family’s transfer. Additionally, many students of military families that have a deployed parent fall behind in school and many have lower standardized test scores compared to those whose parent was not deployed. Unfortunately, many of these students receive unexcused absences for spending a day saying goodbye to a parent leaving on deployment. However, there is limited funding for tutoring these students which unfortunately puts them even further behind their fellow students (Education Week, 2011).

Teachers, administrators and other school personnel need to be educated, trained and take an active role in the challenges faced by the more than 1.3 million military children currently in our nation’s public schools. “Teachers and administrators need to recognize how frequent mobility can affect a child’s academic growth and social-emotional development. They should be aware of the upheaval a soldier’s deployment can cause in a household. And they should be equipped with effective strategies for both welcoming new families and integrating respect for the military lifestyle into their teaching practices” (Education Week, 2011, para 10). Unfortunately this is not part of the teacher certification process in most universities and as of 2011, “only two universities are providing master’s-level degree training that focuses specifically on the needs of military students in schools and on creating a school climate that is welcoming and sensitive to the concerns of military families. This means organizations such as the Military Child Educational Coalition, which advocates for the needs of military children and provides resources to families, provide most of the training only after teachers receive their university degrees” (Education Week, 2011, para 11).

Educators play a critical role in the life of each student. They are a significant and valuable resource and support as the children affected by deployment learn to cope and grow during this time of change. There are many suggestions and strategies an educator can use in the classroom as appropriate. An educator needs to rely on the wisdom and knowledge of childhood development to help each child and to assess their individual needs and the needs of the other children in the classroom. The “No Child Left Behind” and "Race to the Top" programs seem to have left quite a few children, specifically students of military families, behind and at the bottom. Now is the time that something needs to be done to assist these students with academic and behavior issues that they are currently experiencing to help them cope.

To view a proposal related to this wiki page's topic, please download the document below.


Congressional Research Service (Belasco, 2009). This research was conducted and provided to show the troop strength levels from the inception of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq through 2009.

Education Week, Vol. 30, Issue 33, Pages 27,32 (2011). The Need to Support Students From Military Families. This article addresses deployments and how educators can help support students needs.

Macmillan Dictionary Online (2013). Macmillan Publishers Limited.

Military (2014). This website provides a listing of all the military bases worldwide.

Military Child Education Coalition (2012). This website provides various resources and tools for educators to assist them in educating and understanding the student in a military family.

Military Kids Connect (2014). This site helps educators learn about the unique issues that students and families go through when a parent or both serves in the military.

Military (2014). This article discusses the sadness military kids experience when school is out for the summer and that many of their friends, or even themselves, move away to a new military location. Network (2014). This site gives examples of military language/jargon that is commonly used throughout the various military branches.

National Association of School Psychologists (2011). Principal Leadership: Supporting Students From Military Families. This article discusses the many stages of deployments and how educators can help students cope.

U.S. Department of Defense (2014). and This site has various items of interest, but for the purpose of this wiki page, this site was used to show the various rank and insignia across all the branches of military services.

The Washington Post (2007). This story from The Washington Post announces the troop surge that will take place "to help the beleaguered Iraqi government regain control of Baghdad."