Military Families Need Mentors, Too

When a parent is away, a non-family role model can help provide career and life guidance.

Posted: 03/19/2012 06:10 PM EDT

Being in the military can be difficult not only when serving in combat zones abroad, but also when leaving your loved ones at home. One group of people who knows just how challenging raising a family can be while working thousands of miles away are African-American mothers in the military.

 

“I’m a solider, but I’m a mom first,” U.S. Army Reserve Sergeant Major Maneasseaha Bartinius tells BET.com.

 

Bartinius, who has served in the military for 27 years, was one of five chaperones to accompany a group of teenage girls to BET's “Speed Careering: Mentoring the Next Generation” workshop during its annual Leading Women Defined Conference.

 

Just last year, the sergeant major had to leave her then eight-year old son at home while she went away to serve for over 12 months. Though she says it was one of the hardest things she had to do, she knew she had to make the sacrifice to ensure her son had a better life. One thing she and the other military mom chaperones know can help children deal with the stresses of their parents leaving, however, is mentorship. 

 

“The biggest misconception about military children is that they are different from other families. Their parent’s may have different careers and make different sacrifices, but at the end of the day, [the children] still have dreams and goals,” highest-ranking woman in the military and director of military affairs and community outreach for the Obama administration Michele S. Jones says. “Mentoring provides an additional opportunity for education, motivation and transformation.”

 

Throughout the event, the group of young ladies rotated from table to table having the opportunity to pick the brains and receive advice from some of the most powerful Black female executives.

 

“The biggest lesson I learned today was to think about what I want to do and not follow the money,” attendee Quanice Augntry, 18, of Hampton, Virginia says.   

 

“My mom is in the military; she is my mentor and I learn a lot from her, but having an actress or an entrepreneur to help to guide me is something different and a new place to learn from,” 17-year-old Reseé Ruff added.

 

Organizations such as The National Mentoring Partnership provide opportunities for over three million children to receive external advice, but program director Libra Johnson says that more needs to be done, especially when 15 million mainly African-American children are still seeking guidance.

 

“Mentoring the African-American community may be more important than in any other community,” Johnson tells BET.com. “Our communities tend to have homes where there may not be a male presence, so mentoring can fill in the gap and help children become less likely to become teen parents, use drugs and drop out of school.”

 

To learn more about the National Mentoring Partnership and how to become a mentor visit here.

 

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(Photo: Commercial Appeal/Landov)

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