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02-04-03, 07:31 PM
Article ran : 02/02/2003
Left Behind
Jacksonville High develops a unique program to help students deal with military deployment

For more than a month, Marines and sailors from Camp Lejeune and New River Air Station have been leaving Jacksonville due to deployments.

While war with Iraq hasn’t been declared, it’s a possibility. Left behind are the families of those Marines and sailors, including 125 students from Jacksonville High School.

It’s a lot of students to be impacted by a single event, and Jacksonville High’s guidance department is doing what it can to make the change easier on the students whose parents have been deployed.

One of the first things the guidance department did was conduct a survey in order to determine how many students actually had a parent who was deployed or was going to be deployed. The information helps the guidance department know exactly what students might need some help so they can touch base with those students, says Myra Marks, a Jacksonville High guidance counselor.

In addition, individual and group counseling sessions will be available to students, says Laura Garcia, a student from East Carolina University who is working as an intern in Jacksonville High’s guidance department.

She says the counseling sessions are designed to make students not feel so alone while they are coping with their parents’ deployments.

The guidance department also plans to help out any students whose families are struggling financially by directing them to agencies that can help them. Garcia says the counselors will see what the problem is and match those families with the agencies that can help.

“In emergency cases, there are companies in the community who could have it taken care of in a matter of hours,” Marks says.

“Guidance wants to be able to provide help so no one falls through the cracks,” Garcia adds.

The main goal of the Jacksonville High guidance department is making sure students are safe, with food, shelter and someone to care for them. The counselors also hope to provide students with information.

Marks says that teachers have been told to use more compassion when dealing with students whose parents have been deployed.

“Deployment is almost like divorce,” says Marks, referring to the feelings of loss, anger and lack of control that students might experience in either situation.

“I want the student body to know that we’re here for them. We’re also here for parents and caregivers,” says Marks, who was a counselor in Jacksonville during the Persian Gulf War.

“Having gone through it once before, you can anticipate part of the need but never all of it,” says Marks who thinks the stages are pretty much the same.

Jacksonville High junior Chris Ochoa didn’t know that there was a program at the school for families with deployed parents. But after hearing what the program was about, Chris thought it was “awesome.”

“I’m happy our school is doing that for the families. It will definitely bring our community a little bit closer because we are helping each other out and know what each other are feeling,” says Chris whose father was deployed Dec. 30.

Chris is upset that his father is gone. But he and his siblings are doing their best to make things easier for their mother.

“My dad is gone already, and he went on float last year so it pretty much feels the same,” Chris says, referring to a routine six-month deployment that many Marines experience. “It’s the feeling where something is lacking in your life. Everyone’s trying real hard to make the times easier and make my mom more at ease.”

Chris is bothered that his father is overseas because he doesn’t know what’s going on over there.

“All I want is for my dad to come home,” Chris says.

Amanda Hickey is a junior at Jacksonville High School.