“DEAR DADDY/ Bertil Erling/ ARE you VERY LONESOME?/ Do you LIVE in A housE?/ SUNDAY We EAT VERY GOOD./ Ruth Erling”
A letter written by six-year-old Ruth Erling to her father, Bertil Erling who was an Army chaplin who was stationed in the Pacific.
I never really thought about how war affects the people fighting in it, or the affect it has on their families. This was until my Political Science class last year when a classmate gave us a talk about his time as an officer in the marines. I became a little less ignorant and even more so with this class. Yet I have still only considered the person fighting or the loved one at home. The letter above, from the book Since You Went Away, has called to mind the children with military personnel as parents and how they are affected by war. I find the letter to be especially interesting because you feel the innocence, caring nature, and curiosity of the child at the age of six.
I was separated from my father through divorce, but I at least knew he was relatively safe and close. I can not imagine what it would be like to be separated due to war and having to grasp the concept of it at a young age or any age for that matter.
I have blogged about a woman before who writes blogs on her site named, Confessions of an Army Wife. She explains in a blog, “Daddy is Absent” how her daughter is affected by war.
“As soon as we got in the house, our DD was asking for her Daddy. She was calling, “Da-di, da-di”. I told her that Daddy is away for a while and he is at work. Every morning as soon as she wakes up and get out of her room she will always call Daddy. I let her peek out the window and explain to her where Daddy is.”
This young girl is two and has a harder time understanding the “where abouts” of her father, although it is obvious she realizes that he is not with her. It seems that the situation would be extremely hard for the parent remaining at home to not only worry about the spouse over seas but to constantly be reminded of it through a child that does not fully understand. Depending on how long the person is deployed; the child could go through different stages, first being aware that someone is missing, then realizing that they are living somewhere else and then maybe the scariest realization is that that other place is most likely dangerous. Although it is hard, it is important for the parent to try and have the child understand to the best of their ability, “Confessions of an Army Wife” agrees by saying,
“I think when your kids are growing up already and your spouse is in the military, it is the time that you need to explain more to them why their parent is away and not always at home. When hubby was deployed overseas our daughter was still a baby so she is not looking for him yet. This is why it is always emphasize during briefings when the service members are deployed to give importance on the children. They are the one’s most affected by the absence of a parent/parents because of call of duty.”
The child needs to be aware of the purpose the parent is there, their personal reasons for joining the military, and the importance of the war. All these things should be addressed so the child can attempt to understand the absence of their parent.
Confessions of An Army Wife, Daddy is Absent