School ready to help students cope with deployment
BAMBERG, Germany — For students bearing the brunt of deployed parents, the new school year in Bamberg has brought a changing of the guard. About half the soldiers in the community returned from Iraq at almost the same time that half deployed for Operation Iraqi Freedom II.
But students and school faculty members say the children are dealing with it.
And administrators say they can’t tell yet how the deployment is affecting students.
“It’s too early to tell,” said Billie Rainey, Bamberg High School principal. “We are trying to keep it business as usual, with students focusing on their school work in light of things that they cannot change.”
Similarly, Würzburg Elementary School is keeping the pupils busy in an effort to ease the burden of the deployment.
“Kids are pretty resilient,” said Dan Riley, a third- through fifth-grade counselor for the school. “We try to show the kids that now it’s time to get on with their responsibilities as students and as members of their families.
“That is what their deployed parent would want them to do, and the kids really understand that.”
However, the schools are keeping an eye out for pupils who may be struggling with the deployment.
Bamberg High School has an Army Crisis Prevention Team visiting for three weeks to talk to students and families of deployed soldiers. Also, a counselor support team is on hand to talk with kids about the deployment, Rainey said.
Counselors at Würzburg Elementary spend the entire recess breaks outside with the pupils to watch for indicators of stress or trouble, Riley said.
“There are guidance counselors you can go to, and they will sit down and talk with you,” said Kevin Daniels, a seventh-grader from Bamberg and son of Sgt. Kevin Daniels of 71st Corps Support Group.
“I’ve slipped in my grades a little bit compared to last year, but I don’t know if that’s from my dad not being around.”
Daniels made the jump from elementary school to middle school this year while his father was deployed.
In just their second week of school, the pupils say they haven’t really discussed the impact of deployments with counselors or friends. Some pupils whose deployed parent has returned say they relied more on the support system of the family at home during the deployment.
“It brings your family closer together when there is a deployment,” said Dionnah Mathis, a Bamberg High School senior and daughter of Master Sgt. Liston Mathis of 7th Corps Support Group.
“When my dad came home, we were a lot closer than before he left.”
Bamberg eighth-grader Alicia Ewing is already a seasoned veteran when it comes to coping with deployments. When her father, 1st Sgt. Robert Ewing of the 1st Infantry Division’s Division Artillery, went to Iraq early this year, it was another in a string of deployments.
“It seems like my dad has been deployed ever since I was born,” Ewing said. “It’s not a big change for me. When he is here, I know I have to make the most of it and enjoy it.”
Jeremy Bermudez, a Bamberg senior, said even if he didn’t discuss the deployment with his friends, having them around helped.
“I have two sisters, so I had to watch them a lot more during the summer when my dad [Sgt. 1st Class Elvin Bermudez of the 54th Engineer Battalion] was deployed,” he said. “It was harder during the summer. While you are in school, you have your friends around.”
The school staff, which has a list of all children with deployed parents, is taking extra steps to reach out to students.
Principals are making sure that teachers are aware of the types of missions soldiers are doing in Iraq so that they are prepared to help students in case something happens, Rainey said.
“We are trying to get motivational, inspirational speakers to come in for assemblies,” she said. “That’s something the students have asked for.”
Rainey said students she ran into during the summer break were ready for school to start.
“They told me they were anxious to get back to school,” Rainey said. “I like to think that they see this as a safe place and a nurturing place.”