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Three men in uniform.

Earlier this month, President George Bush proposed adding more than 20,000 troops to the U.S. effort in Iraq.

Supporting military families

By Rose Allen and Sara Croymans

From eNews, Jan. 25, 2007

Did you know that half of the soldiers serving in Iraq today are part of the National Guard or Army Reserve? These men and women have families, jobs and other roles in their communities. In Minnesota, an estimated 5,000 soldiers have been mobilized to serve in a number of conflicts around the world. Mobilization takes them away from family and community for anywhere from two months to two years or more. The recent proposal by President Bush to increase the U.S. military presence in Iraq will add an additional four months to the time many Minnesota soldiers are away from home.

What does this mean for their families and the community?

Speak out for military kids

On Saturday, Jan. 27, several military children will discuss what it's like to have a parent or family member deployed overseas. The event, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. in the Centennial Student Union Heritage Room at Minnesota State University, Mankato, is free and open to the public. Earlier that day (9:15 to 10:30 a.m.), the children will also participate in a military panel, which will allow them to ask questions of military personnel who have been deployed in the past.

You can find answers to this question and more--like how to help kids cope with stress, what is the impact of grief and loss or how to be a couple again--on a new University of Minnesota Extension Service Web resource: "Operation Military Kids--Learning Circle Resources" The online information also includes a 15-minute video that describes the five stages of deployment and how they affect families, as well as a lesson plan for hosting a learning circle. (The learning circle lesson includes a leader's guide and participant handouts.)

Extension educators Rose Allen and Sara Croymans developed the lesson plan with the support of Minnesota's Operation Military Kids Team. Operation Military Kids is a national outreach effort that delivers recreation, social and educational programs for military youth living in civilian communities.

The U also offers the first-of-its kind Veterans Transition Center in Eddy Hall on the Twin Cities campus. The center, which opened in October 2005 to provide educational and other resources for student veterans, faculty and fellow students, is sponsored by the student group Comfort for Courage. To learn more, visit the Veterans Transition Center.

Rose Allen is an educator in family relations and Sara Croymans is an educator in family resource management with the University of Minnesota Extension Service.