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Hidden Casualties of War: Supporting the Children of Wounded Veterans

This is a guest post from Margaret B. Davis, President of Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation

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Margaret B. Davis

“My friends deal with planning a party Friday or Saturday night, and I deal with whether I should drive my dad to the hospital or my mom should.”

This isn’t your typical teenager’s weekend plan, but it’s the stark reality for many of the 52,000 children living with a parent who has been wounded in action—particularly the severely wounded.This jolting perspective was shared by a 15-year-old daughter of a wounded Marine a recent study.

The groundbreaking Study on Children of Seriously Wounded Service Members: Hidden Casualties of War, commissioned by the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation, zeroed in on the roadblocks that prevent children of wounded veterans from thriving—and the ways that we, as a Nation, are falling short in our support of them.

As the President and CEO of the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation, the country’s oldest and largest provider of need-based scholarships to military children, I’ve seen the ways military kids struggle and sacrifice. The children of wounded veterans grow up fast–they have to. They take on caretaking duties and often experience stress and uncertainty at home.

Seeing this every day inspired us to commission this study.

For a year, we worked closely with researchers at the University of San Diego, along with our partners at more than a dozen organizations–including the USO, the Wounded Warrior Project, Fisher House, and the Marine Corps’ Wounded Warrior Regiment. Researchers interviewed the wounded and their families, took stock of available resources, and spoke to dozens of organizations that support the wounded.

The full study, which is available on our website, is a clarion call from the families of the wounded to the organizations that support them. Resources available to these children quite often miss the mark. They’re lacking, and the resources that are available often don’t address long-term needs.

It’s essential that veteran service organizations work together towards collective impact that children and spouses of severely wounded service members desperately need.

In 2011, the Scholarship Foundation established the Heroes Tribute Scholarship Program for Children of the Wounded: We provide up to $40,000 in post-high school scholarship support to children of injured Marines and Navy Corpsmen–ensuing an education is not one more thing these families must sacrifice.

While we’ve supported many children’s pursuit of an education, there’s much more to be done—and as 12 years of war wind down, our job is just beginning.

A critical component of the study is its recommendations, pulled directly from interviews with families of the wounded. These families are asking us for:

  • Long-term family resiliency programs that prepare families for the future
  • Online communities for children to connect with one another
  • Mentoring and “healthy parenting” programs for parents
  • A central database of available support in local areas across the country

It’s not possible for one organization to do it all, and we have a long road ahead of us as we, as a nation, support these families as they heal. But together, we can continue to strive toward collective impact—by sharing a common agenda, keeping consistent and open communication, and reinforcing and supporting each other’s activities.

Our hope is that this study will help us all rise to the challenge: ensuring there are no more hidden casualties.

Read more at the Scholarship Foundation at www.mcsf.org. Join the dialogue on Twitter and Facebook.

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