NJ Military Youth of the Year Shares Unique Club Life

April is the Month of the Military Child. This awareness month was established to acknowledge the significant role military youth play in our communities. Boys & Girls Clubs in New Jersey is proud to have Clubs on all five NJ military bases providing support, mentoring and life changing programming to NJ military youth. To celebrate and honor our military youth, we would like to share some words from our 2015 NJ Military Youth of the Year highlighting their strength and resiliency.

My name is Jack and I am the 2015 New Jersey Military Youth of the Year. I am very thankful for this opportunity to share some of the unique aspects of being a military child and how the Clubs help us.

We military children face struggles that are different from your average kid. Sometimes, one or both of our parents are deployed overseas. When my best friend, whose dad just came back from a year-long deployment in Afghanistan was stressed out from having his dad so far away, he could come to the Teen Center on Picatinny Arsenal. There he would be able to talk to me or his other friends about it. Sometimes we cant let off steam at home in front of our families because our moms are tired from taking care of everything themselves, and theyve either got their hands full or theyre just tired of crying about it. But we can go to the Teen Center, and find a friend who knows just what were going through because he/she has been through it too. He knows the hurt in your heart when your parent is gone for a year at a time. He knows how to hear you out. In the end, he can distract you from hurt, so you can have a little fun despite the pain, and hopefully, before you know it, the deployment is over and your parent is back home.

Sometimes though, the deployment doesnt end well. The parent may come home with PTSD, a traumatic brain injury, an amputated leg or God forbid, doesnt come home at all. Military children are usually living far away from the extended family of cousins and grandparents that civilian children can rely on during difficult times, so the friends we make through the military become our extended families. We have to find friends right away as soon as we move to a new place because we might be gone in just a year and who knows what might happen to you in that year? Its through places like the Club Teen Centers on military installations that those kids can find comfort and support when their parents are suffering. Theres also a counselor there that is close enough to your age to understand your hurt and to listen.

The friends Ive made at the Teen Center have helped me through difficult times in my life these past two years. Weve been able to volunteer together at many fun events on post and to give back to our community. Weve played sports and games outside, learned to live a healthy lifestyle, and the staff have encouraged us to stay away from drugs, alcohol, and tobacco. Weve worked on our homework, gotten tutoring help, and assisted other youth with their studies so that we can all be better students. Weve developed socially and emotionally, by forging fast friendships that we hope will last a lifetime.