WAHIAWA, Hawaii - A group of Wahiawa Elementary students meets, here, weekly, to have lunch and discuss their lives as military children.

"Wahiawa Elementary recognizes the challenges students may have with a parent who is deployed or working on the mainland or abroad," said Lisa Okazaki, the school counselor who facilitates the support group.

The group "...provides students with a safe and caring environment to talk about their experiences and thoughts, as well as to feel supported at school," Okazaki said.

Currently, 22 students in kindergarten through fifth-grade participate and share personal stories. They discuss topics ranging from deployed parents to moving to Hawaii from another duty station and changes in their lives. The group supports one another and any student who has a parent in the military.

The military support group at Wahiawa Elementary is just one way the community can support family members of deployed Soldiers. For example, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii's School Liaison Office supplies deployment activity books and letter-writing kits to Wahiawa Elementary and any other school or family readiness group that requests these resources.

The Families OverComing Under Stress, or FOCUS, Project provides resiliency training and consultations to community members, including teachers or counselors, on topics such as a child's behavior changes during deployment or reintegration. The group also holds workshops that give children the tools they need when their parent deploys.

Operation: Military Kids Deployment Briefing
Adults who have children or work with children who are affected by deployments are invited to a free deployment briefing, 9 a.m., Feb. 18, at Marine Corps Base Hawaii Chapel. Visit www.operationmilitarykids.org. Register at 655-9818.

Learn about other resources focusing on children and deployment:

Aca,!AcCall the Wahiawa Elementary School military support group at 808-622-6393,
Aca,!AcCall the FOCUS project at 808-257-7774,
Aca,!AcVisit www.focusproject.org, or
Aca,!AcContact the School Liaison Office, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii, at 808-655-9818.