This year marks the sixth anniversary of when I started my blog. Since the beginning, I have re-posted my first blog explaining the purpose of this forum from time to time in case new readers have joined. As it’s been nearly two years since the last time I did so because of COVID and other trials, it is high time I did so again. At the time I started writing, many military families had requested more information about how to instruct, reach out to, and inspire children during the absence of their parents. The initial purpose of my blog was to provide thoughts related to public service, its impact on families, and how to maintain strong faith and resiliency, especially through the use of imaginative writing. I repeat and expand here on my first article detailing the focus and purpose of my blog.

For those who are unfamiliar with my work, I am a thirty-year veteran of the Army National Guard who has deployed three times to the Middle East in 2004, 2012, and 2017. During my deployments, I wrote my children stories and poetry to connect with them at a time they were dealing with separation anxiety. My intent was to distract them from my absence using fiction while providing inspiration and instruction to make good decisions. I later published some of these works as The Fairy Child, The Mermaid’s Quest, The Unicorn Eternal, and the Christmas Letters (which are all available online on Amazon, Barnes and Nobles, and other outlets). Since my return from my third deployment, I have had the opportunity to speak publicly about my experiences and encourage military families in particular to maintain family connections and readiness. My blog, which I started in January 2017, addressed these same views, and I wrote more than half of them while I was deployed the last time.

As a military service member, I understand the trials that families have to deal with during the absence of public servants. In addition to deploying three times, I have often been absent for training or emergency response missions. Of course, military personnel are not the only ones who struggle with these issues. Most first responders do, and so do occupations ranging from military civilians and contractors to truck drivers who frequently travel. I believe that service is important to our society. These are the people who make our economy work and protect us from harm. Therefore, these articles address the unique needs and challenges of faithful service.

My primary focus has been to assist families in dealing with the absence of service members. While we all agree that those who faithfully serve our nation are deserving of special thanks, most seem to overlook the sacrifices made by families, which are often as great as or even greater than those of the service member. Most adults know what they are getting into when they volunteer for service. Spouses and children often do not, and they usually have no choice in the matter. As a result, they often have to deal with issues such as single parenting for long periods of time, separation anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, constant relocation, and discipline. These can impact behavior, education, and cohesion of families, especially over time. It is not always clear how to handle such circumstances. As a writer, I believe literature, imagination, and creativity are tools that can help families and children especially cope with stress and separation. These articles provide both service members and their families thoughts and resources about how to address these problems.

Third, as part of discussions about family, it is only natural that I talk about faith. By this, I do not mean that the articles are “preachy.” However, faith is an important part of resiliency – faith in a higher power, faith in our nation and society, faith in our culture, faith in family, and (yes, sometimes) faith in ourselves. Resiliency is the process through which service members “snap back” from the stress and challenges of service, and resiliency training is a requirement in the military. I try to introduce ideas about faith or philosophy that can help others deal with all of life’s problems, including deployment and family separation. I mostly keep these fairly general so as to be applicable to people of all faiths, but my views as one who follows Christ are often apparent. By this, I mean no disrespect and only wish to inspire all people to find something in which they believe as a step on the path to resiliency.

To this list, I would add fiction. I have explained over the past year that literature and imagination bring certain benefits. These benefits include temporary escape from reality into a magical world, awareness of supernatural powers, and a happy ending. These stories can provide healing to those dealing with separation and anxiety about life. Like all stories, they can also provide inspiration and instruction to children who emulate characters in stories with which they relate. Thus, I believe that literature and imagination can help people overcome problems related to deployment.

As I continue to publish articles I think will help others, please feel free to contribute ideas or ask questions, including directly through my FB page – I continue to ask for forbearance of any errors, as I do not have an editor and often do not have time to do more than a cursory proofread. As I am still a serving member of the U.S. military, my time is rather constrained. I would add that I try to avoid being political, other than dealing as a family with politics, but it is sometimes difficult to avoid controversial topics. Any opinions I present are my own and not that of the U.S. Army or of any professional organization. Thanks for tuning in.

© 2023 J.D. Manders