Military Marriage and Special Needs Children


Photo Caption: A disabled man is sitting in a wheelchair. He holds his hands on the wheel. Nearby are his colleagues

You realize He is the absolute source of all things and without Him nothing can be done.

The saying “It takes a village to raise a child” holds true. We find it especially true for families in the military, namely those with special needs.  In a recent study done by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute Of Child Health and Human Development, nearly 2 million children were found to have some type of special need in the military, with over 20 percent of that group being under the age of 5.

In the past ten years, about half of active duty service members have deployed at least once, National Guard and Reservists have accounted for ⅓ of deployments. The average length of deployments is 12 months with short tours being 4 months.

Military families with special health care needs face complex issues and rely heavily on both military-specific and civilian based programs. Some parents face depression, anxiety and conflict.  Couples need respite care and specific workshops and skills that can help strengthen their marriage and family. It is important to know about the stressors the families face and what works to alleviate them.

Collin T. Carter, TSgt, USAF (Task force True North 737th Training Group) , and his wife Jordan, are an example of a couple with much experience navigating the world of the military and also balancing marriage and family with a child who has special needs.

It was when their second child was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia that their life changed. They became surrounded by a village of a different sort.  Their son endured multiple rounds of chemotherapy, radiation, participated in a global research study, central line insertion and removal, and two bone marrow transplants. Lastly, out of an 8 month treatment span he spent 7 months room bound in isolation away from all family members. One cannot imagine the toll this took, not only on this child, but on his sisters and parents. Fast forward 2 years, he has been released from the hospital and is doing very well. He still maintains care from his oncologist/transplant specialist, and receives anti-rejection and immune suppressant medications due to the bone marrow transplant.  By God’s grace and wonder working power he is back to being active and enjoys playing sports, attending church and resuming his day to day activities with friends and family.

In today’s article, they share the story of their struggles, triumph and all God has done in their life and marriage.

“Our biggest frustration was having to play “middle man” between insurance and off base hospital and pharmacy. Navigating through the EFMP (Exceptional Family Military Program) was not easy. It seemed more times than not, we had to initiate action, or follow up. Several times we had to go between one or more parties to ensure they would work together so we could get the necessary warrants for certain procedures approved for our son, and to ensure said procedures would be paid.  This added stress to us both individually and in our marriage.  It took time away from our jobs and the mission I had been given on base.”

“The added stress negatively impacted our daughters as well.  Our oldest was impacted significantly and our youngest acted out more because we were not around as much. She was so young and could not understand why she could not see her brother.  Essentially, he was deployed for 7 months. She and her brother are so close in age and were practically twins.”

“Initially, we tried putting the kids first, and ourselves (marriage) last which eventually caught up with us. If we were going to heal our family it had to start with us. We knew our children would learn from our example. We sought counseling for our eldest daughter, and we began taking small windows of time together. A lunch, or a short walk, then we would take time with the girls. We began looking at things from a team approach. Communication became vital. We started using a shared calendar, and 3 way calls so that we could be on the same page with doctors, appointments etc.”

“This season helped us sink deeper in our faith. Faith  is a priority in our household, however even more so when you are walking through something like this.  You realize He is the absolute source of all things and without Him nothing can be done. The Lord Jesus Christ Revealed Himself in ways to us we cannot explain.  He grew me as a husband and father, grew Jordan as a wife and mother, taught us how to realign our priorities, trust in Him above all things and stand firm on His promises. He has also grown me as an NCOIC, Religious Affairs. Through this experience, I have a deeper understanding of what my fellow Airmen who have special needs family members are going through.  When I am out ministering to them I can do so now with a level of authenticity I did not have before.  I have a first hand understanding of the stress and strain this situation can have on a marriage and family and I can empathize.  Despite the circumstance, trust and seek the Lord for His grace, mercy and peace.  He has shown Himself faithful to our family and for that we are so grateful.”

“We would advise any couple walking through this to first and foremost lean into Jesus like never before, surround yourself with a community of believers, establish a rapport with your leadership, and case manager. Lean into your military family. Take things one day at a time.  Avoid stinking thinking.  This can only be accomplished by staying in His word.  (I would have flash cards with scripture that I would keep with me so in moments where I would be down I could read those and build myself up) REMEMBER, It is OK to reach out for help! You are not alone.



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