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School program helps children cope with deployments

Brice Relaford helps Caleb Parrish draw a card for his father April 26 at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. Brice and Caleb are "Deployment Buddies," which is a program for high school and elementary school students who have parents that have deployed or will deploy. The buddies pair up and spend a day doing activities such as making cards for their parents, dancing the "Hokey Pokey" and playing games. The event happens once a month. Brice is a Ramstein High School junior. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Leigh Bellinger)

Brice Relaford helps Caleb Parrish draw a card for his father April 26 at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. Brice and Caleb are "Deployment Buddies," which is a program for high school and elementary school students who have parents that have deployed or will deploy. The buddies pair up and spend a day doing activities such as making cards for their parents, dancing the "Hokey Pokey" and playing games. The event happens once a month. Brice is a Ramstein High School junior. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Leigh Bellinger)

Ramstein High School students dance the "Hokey Pokey" at the elementary school April 26 at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. The students are a part of the Deployment Buddies Program where they mentor and play with elementary school children who have parents deployed or those who will deploy. A high school student is paired up with a buddy and participate in a number of activities throughout the day. The program is mainly for students who have parents deployed. (Courtesy photo)

Ramstein High School students dance the "Hokey Pokey" at the elementary school April 26 at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. The students are a part of the Deployment Buddies Program where they mentor and play with elementary school children who have parents deployed or those who will deploy. A high school student is paired up with a buddy and participate in a number of activities throughout the day. The program is mainly for students who have parents deployed. (Courtesy photo)

Ramstein High School students and elementary school children meet for the first time in the Deployment Buddies Program at Ramstein Elementary April 26 at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. The program helps elementary school students whose parents have deployed or will deploy. A high school student is assigned a buddy and continues the day with planned activities like dances, games, arts and crafts. (Courtesy photo)

Ramstein High School students and elementary school children meet for the first time in the Deployment Buddies Program at Ramstein Elementary April 26 at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. The program helps elementary school students whose parents have deployed or will deploy. A high school student is assigned a buddy and continues the day with planned activities like dances, games, arts and crafts. (Courtesy photo)

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany (AFNEWS) -- Life for military children can be hard, especially when the parents serving in the military have to deploy away from their children. However, Ramstein Air Base children who attend Ramstein high and elementary schools may find a friend when they are needed the most. 

To help military children here through difficult times, the Deployment Buddies Program pairs up high school students with elementary school children whose parents are away on deployment. It is a chance for high school students to mentor the younger children, and to share experiences on how to deal with deployments. 

"I loved when my parents read to me when I was little," said Nina Ramos, a high school senior. "So I asked (my deployment buddy) about her favorite books.  I told her that when I was little, I used to send my dad my favorite books and he used to record them on a tape and send them back to me. So she told her mom and they talked about it and yeah, it worked out for her, too. They started doing it and she said it was nice to hear her father's voice every night." 

The buddies meet once a month and participate in a wide variety of activities. They play games, dance the "Hokey Pokey," draw pictures and write cards to their deployed parents.

"The bottom line is the little kids needed someone to connect with," said Fred Lopez, a high school guidance counselor. "They needed to feel like they weren't alone in all of this."

The program is open to children whose parents will deploy, are deployed, or have recently returned. Members of the high school honor's society and junior ROTC program volunteer.

"I just know how it feels when that one parent is missing birthdays and Christmas," Nina said. "It's nice when you have one parent there, but you need that other one by your side supporting you."

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