By Hannah CrismanOctober 13, 2009
(Editor's note: This commentary was written by 11-year-old Hannah Crisman with the proofreading help of her father, Sgt. 1st Class Mike Crisman of the Illinois Army National Guard.)
ELGIN, Ill. (Oct. 12, 2009) -- While my friends were outside playing in the colorful leaves on Saturday, I was in Elgin, going through the Illinois National Guard's Children's Reintegration program.
The day was part of the Illinois National Guard's "Tying the Yellow Ribbon" program for Soldiers and their families after they return from overseas.
My father, Mike Chrisman, a member of the 1744th Transportation Company in Streator, Ill., got back from Iraq about two years ago. When he came home, they didn't have this program for kids like my two younger sisters and me.
Let me tell you just what the program is and what the kids do. The Children's Reintegration Program is for children whose mom or dad is in the military. My sisters and I split up from our parents and went with a group of teachers who help kids like us understand the feelings we have felt while our dad was gone and what we are going through now that he is home.
First we went into a room and played some really fun games to get to know everyone just a little bit better. I will admit I was a bit nervous, but after the games I felt a little bit more comfortable to talk about my feelings.
Then it was time to get crafty in the art room. We drew a picture of where we want to go before we die. Then we drew our family. Before I die I would like to go to the Hawaiian Islands. To me, Hawaii is symbolic of our families. Each island is different just like each member of our family.
Lunch time! Now this is the part of the day where you can see and talk to your parents. I'm not going to lie, the food was not the best thing I have ever put into my mouth: Ham and cheese sandwich on dry bread.
After lunch was my favorite part of the day, drama. It was awesome! We got to put on plays and act out different situations in our lives. This helped me and my sisters get a better understanding of how to handle things with our parents. It was interesting putting myself in their shoes, which gave me a better idea about how they handle different situations with me and my sisters.
While going through the day I got to learn a lot about my teachers and why they are part of this program. One woman named Kristy is about to have a baby and her husband is in Iraq. She sees the need for such a program and wants to help out other families. Others had different reasons, but they all said it was about helping families of our Soldiers.
Although I was nervous about going to the Children's Reintegration Program, I learned a lot. Programs like this are very important to me and my family because it is supposed to help families reconnect with each other after being away for a year or more.
I think it's awesome that the Illinois National Guard put together this fun program for kids. This is something I didn't get to go through when my dad first came home from Iraq and I think it could have really helped me get through some of the problems when he first came home.
I encourage families with kids to come to this program. It is fun and it can teach your kids a lesson or two.