By SFC Lyndon Miller, 412 Theater Engineer CommandApril 11, 2013
VICKSBURG, Miss. - Not only can military life and deployments create hardship for the soldiers themselves, but the families, in particular Army Reserve teens, also have to deal with the challenges of a missing loved one due to training or military service overseas.
The daughter of a 412th Theater Engineer Command JAG officer has been facilitating communication between Army Reserve youth and the Army Reserve leadership in order to provide help on this very issue.
Lexie Kyriakidis, 15, of Chattanooga, Tenn., the child of Maj. Savas Kyriakidis, was selected as a member of the Army Reserve Team Panel, a Child, Youth and School Services program to help children manage the challenges inherent with having a parent, or parents, in the military.
According to their website, ARTP started in 2006 and has provided a variety of services to the Army Reserve family such as distributing care packages for children of deployed troops, participating in disaster relief with the American Red Cross, and they worked alongside the USO in welcoming returning soldiers.
A panel member since October 2012, Lexie will serve a two-year stint. She attended her first ARTP meeting in Washington last fall, one of four meetings she will attend during her first year.
"The first thing we did was talk about how to find an effective way to keep Army Reserve teens in touch with each other," Lexie said. "We follow each other on Instagram, and there is an ARTP Facebook page," she said, "where we talk about what each other are going through."
The ARTP group went on to discuss and identify other issues involving Army Reserve teens. One problem identified was that no system was in place to track teens once they turn 18 and fall off the radar.
"There's nothing to keep them in the Army community," Lexie said, and "no opportunity for college kids to stay connected."
Solving that problem will be the main focus of the ARTP's April meeting in Charlotte, N.C.
One of the last agenda items at the Washington meeting was for ARTP members to out-brief the Chief of Army Reserve Lt. Gen. Jeffrey W. Talley on the results of their panel discussions.
While Lexie thought briefing Talley was scary, her father, Maj. Kyriakidis, thought it was a good thing, and that the ARTP has broadened his daughter's exposure and has elevated her out of a local, provincial mindset to a more national mindset.
It has given Lexie "a good taste of what's involved in the federal government, federal service and department of defense areas," he said. "ARTP trains how leadership works in the federal government, training your skill-set toward that," he said.
The Youth, Leadership, Education and Development program, another CYSS effort, educates teens on the culture of the Army Reserve and provides an understanding of the effect of military deployments on families.
Lexie is required to attend one YLEAD summit and already appears to be in a good position to empathize with other kids with similar experiences. Her father has missed several of her birthdays because of deployments.
"He's missed three of my birthdays," she said, "which is kind of sad. Other kids, civilians, can't imagine not having a parent there for their birthday," Lexie said.
She went to say that during her father's deployments it was hard to see other kids with their dads because she missed hers so much.
"Like any kid, I missed my dad a lot, and I've always been a daddy's girl at heart," Lexie said.
Lexie spoke further of the hardship of missing her father but also voiced appreciation of what her father's service means.
"It's definitely a struggle, but it's worth it to be able to go to school and get to learn all these different things and walk around and enjoy these freedoms that we have," she said.
Lexie said that teenagers are constantly in pursuit of knowing.
"The more we are kept in the loop regarding training, deployment cycles and the demands the Army Reserve puts on our parents, the better we are able to cope with the stress and the better we are able to explain the Army Reserve to our peers," Lexie said.
As an ARTP panel member, Lexie wants teens to realize, "full-throttle," that they have a community to fall back on.
"I hope to let others know they are an important and integral part of the Army Reserve family," she said.