by Danielle Wagner
WATERLOO (KWWL) Back in October, about 3500 Iowa National Guard Members were alerted for possible mobilization to Afghanistan for up to 12 months.
Deployment can be difficult on the soldiers, but also on those left at home.
Connor Leistikow's dad, Shawn, was notified he could be going to Afghanistan. The announcement spurred Connor's mom, Ashley, to help organize a military support group for children.
The group just started at Lowell Elementary in Waterloo. It's for children who have a family member or someone close to them serving our country.
"It's really hard for a parent, but sometimes even having an aunt or an uncle when they see the scary things on the news even if they're not close to them they know that's family and every time they heard a headline it frightens them," said Ashley Leistikow.
Since the possible mobilization announcement, Ashley Leistikow said Connor has difficulty when his dad leaves for drill on the weekends. When her husband is potentially gone for a year, she wants to know Connor has support at school.
"Studies have show students that have support through their school and know the other kids going through the same situations do better with their grades. They don't fall back academically," she said.
The ISU Extension Office is helping with the group. There are activities and games designed to create bonds between the children.
"Here when they talk about how their uncle has been gone for a year or something like that, these kids will understand. Most of these kids have been through it, have felt the exact things. It's not feeling awkward and left out, it's feeling more accepted," said Leistikow.
The students can talk about their feelings, but they can also "pass" on any topic. The group meets twice a month. It's based on a similar program in Charles City.
Reporter: Danielle Wagner