For most of his young life, Kody Kravitz has shared a Pennsylvania apartment with his mom and dad, his half-sister Shaiyann, and their pet snakes. His father is a GI, and his mother joined the Army Reserves while she was still in high school. So now, Kody is parentless, at least for the duration. His home has dissolved -- with his half-sister packed off to her mom's house, Kody will go and live with Grandma. The snakes are still looking for placement.
Kody, of course, has no idea why his mom and dad and sister suddenly disappeared. "There is no way to explain this to Kody; he's just too little to understand," his mom, Jaime Strathmeyer, told The New York Times. "... By the time I get home, he'll be calling my mother Mommy and my father Daddy."
Kody is not alone. Suzanna and Mary Connolly are 2-year-old twins. Daddy's been deployed, and their mom, in the Navy Reserves, struggles with what will happen when she is called. The plan is to send the girls to her brother in Milwaukee, whom they have never met. Arlene Innis is a 27-year-old single mom who joined the Army a year ago so she could better provide for her two kids, Shante, 7, and Sharica, 4. Now she is trying to figure out how to explain that they might have to "go to Grandma's house for a little while." Like six months, or a year. In other words, for a small child, an eternity.
These are just a few of the thousands of children who are being asked to make pretty much the ultimate sacrifice, from a child's point of view: to risk not only one parent but both parents, or the only parent they have. In World War II, David Blankenhorn points out, the country agonized and debated before sending married fathers to fight and die for their country. Now we send single mothers off to war, and nobody even raises a peep of concern or discussion.
It's not easy to find out how many children are so affected. According to Brian Mitchell's 1998 book, "Women in the Military" (Regnery), there are 24,000 single moms and about an equal number of single custodial dads, plus more than 50,000 dual-service couples, who must also arrange to leave children with friends and relatives when called up. Conservatively, call it 150,000 American children.
Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.