by Pam Swan, Guest Contributor
When my husband was deployed in the 1990s, we had a nearby amusement park that put together an event for all families of deployed service members. My son was 2 years old at the time and constantly asked for his daddy.
I’ll never forget the day we went to that park – he didn’t ask for Daddy once.
The day was entirely about him; full of laughter and smiles without any worries. Even on the drive home, there were smiles all the way.
Each time John was gone on another deployment, anything that would mitigate stress on the kids was a huge relief for me, which was so needed. While the kids are sometimes distracted, moms aren’t.
Which is why having something that gives us a positive distraction helps pass the time until that next phone call.
We went eight months without a call during one deployment – that was hard.
While this positive distraction helps alleviate the stress for a few hours, it reminds you that tomorrow, life goes back to normal. The reality of your husband being gone sets back in. Knowing that there are others wanting to give you relief and joy is something I can’t put into words.
Veterans United Hosts ‘Military Kids Day At The Ballpark’ for National Guard Families
When Veterans United came up with the idea to do something special for military families going through a deployment, they asked what it would mean to me as a mom and spouse whose husband was previously deployed. Living through that experience gave me the unique perspective to understand the importance of such an occasion.
As a military spouse who has walked in the shoes of these moms and caregivers, I was eager to see the faces of the kids and moms the first time we hosted Military Kids Day at the Ballpark in 2017.
Veterans United Recognizes The Sacrifices Of Military Families
In planning the evening, our goal was to provide an experience that would give the moms a night off while the kids enjoyed a St. Louis Cardinals experience like no other, including special access to the field, recognition at the game and the freedom to buy whatever they wanted. They had complete freedom of choice, from a baseball cap to a batting helmet overflowing with donuts.
The game was a way to let them know that they are appreciated and that the sacrifices they make each and every day don’t go unnoticed. On that evening, you could see relief on the moms’ faces because their kids were happy and that responsibility wasn’t on their shoulders.
“It’s a day to make the kids feel special, to take their minds off of Dad being deployed and to let them know it’s their day,” said Linda Lackman, whose three kids attended this year’s game.
This year we took 16 kids from 12 families to a St. Louis Cardinals’ game. We partnered with the Missouri National Guard to select kids whose parents were currently deployed and worked with the Cardinals on a few extra surprises. The kids ranged in age from two to 18.
In addition to receiving tickets to the baseball game, the kids and their families were given a Cardinals experience, complete with seeing players up close on the field during batting practice, appearances on the scoreboard, an opportunity to serve as the PA announcer for an inning, fireworks and a Cardinals’ win over the Chicago Cubs.
‘Military Kids Day At The Ballpark’ Is A Memorable Night For Military Kids, Moms
“It’s a night Thomas and I will remember forever,” said Christina Traber, whose 8-year-old son served as the PA announcer.
“Honestly, I cannot think of anything that could have been better. He felt so special and that’s everything I could have hoped for!”
My favorite part of the night is watching the smiles on the faces of both the kids and dads who are able to FaceTime throughout the night to share in the festivities. It reminds me of how much it meant to my kids to relish any chance to connect with Dad when he was thousands of miles away.
“You can’t put into words the kinds of sacrifices our families make – it’s hard. It’s a lot of missed time with family; a lot of struggles,” said Kristina Cross, whose 11-year-old daughter attended the game.
The support family members and loved ones provide for our deployed men and women is vital to the American way of life and cannot go overlooked. After hearing feedback from the moms who went, I hope to see this event continue to grow so that National Guard families across the country can experience this.
Related: Am I a Military* Spouse?
“My son and I had such a good time,” said Ashley Proctor, whose four year old attended the game. “He loved getting to go on the field and see the baseball players up close. That is definitely something neither of us have ever done before. It will be something we remember for a long time to come.”
Pam Swan is the senior director of military relations and business development for Veterans United Home Loans. As the spouse of a retired Army soldier, Pam has been actively working to serve members of the military and veterans for more than a decade to raise awareness of the VA loan through financial education briefings presented to service members across the country. In her spare time, Pam enjoys running or taking a motorcycle ride through the beautiful scenery of Mid-Missouri and spending time with her husband, John, and two kids, John III and Erin.