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OSU Extension

College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences


Ohio Military Kids

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Life can look different from a military perspective.

Throughout our Ohio communities, there are many families with a loved one deployed or otherwise serving in the military. Life can be very different for these families, although many of us may not realize it. Jenny Lobb talks with Justin Bower, Extension educator for Healthy Living and Ohio Military Kids, about how Ohio 4-H connects with military youth and their parents around the state.

The mission of Ohio Military Kids (OMK) is to support the youth of military families throughout the deployment cycle. We offer many opportunities for military kids to relax and "be kids" with others just like them, for military families to connect with each other, and for all Ohioans to learn how to support the military families in our communities. OMK helps create supportive network of other military families, as well as educate public, military families and 4-H professionals about this unique family scenario. Visit to explore what the OMK program has to offer your family and your friends in the military.

OMK camps are a great way for youth to connect with other kids of military members, and for our military families to connect with each other and with other families like them. Troop and family camps are coordinated through a joint effort with the Ohio National Guard and the USO and are open to all branches of the military. This is often a great chance for military family members of all ages to talk about what they are experiencing. HERO camps help Ohio's military kids become more resilient and prepared to manage the stresses of growing up in a military family. There are also residential camps held at Kelleys Island in Lake Erie for youth (9-11 years old) and teens (12-15 years old). Youth counselors and civillian and military adult staff members make these unforgettable experiences for military kids!

What are some other things that impact kids in military families differently than other kids? A family member may be gone for an undetermined length of time and family may not know where they are during deployment. When a family member is out of the home for a time, the oldest youth may face a unique pressure to fulfil a different role in the family. Single-parent military families deal with additional challenges in terms of child care, schooling, and housing while the military parent is deployed; and that can sometimes happen at a moment's notice. Families can live in a community without really "connecting" with their community, and this can feel very lonely. For example, they may be thanked for their service, but others don’t understand their life structure or know about the unique challenges they face.

More than 13,000 students in Ohio are members of military families, according to the Ohio Department of Education, which offers a number of programs to assist military families and students. Learn more about how the department supports these students.

Justin Bower is OSU Extension’s state 4-H Healthy Living and Ohio Military Kids educator. Theresa Ferrari, Extension specialist, also works with the OMK program.