A father waving goodbye to his family on the pier. A mother hugging her child before she takes a transport flight overseas. These are the experiences of military families across the country as parents leave on deployment. Margaret Rochon, daughter of Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Gene Rochon, has felt this tremendous burden of deployment but instead of fearing it, turned it into an opportunity to strengthen her family and educate her community.
“It is the way we live so I don’t know what to compare it to as I have always been a military child,” said Rochon. “It entails a lot of responsibilities civilian children may not understand or ever know, but in return it offers a lot of experiences that are rewarding and valuable that have, and will help me, as I enter new phases of my life.”
Rochon was only six weeks old when her father deployed as part of a law enforcement detachment to conduct counter-narcotic operations in the Caribbean, and over the next 17 years of her life he would deploy more than 25 times. While this may seem like an immense strain for her family, it is all she has ever known.
“From a very early age, Maggie understood and appreciated her role in her dad’s success,” said Peggy Rochon, Margaret’s mother. “While she would love to be with him always, she knew he was serving his country. Her dad’s many deployments instilled a desire for a life of service.”
This life of service has impacted her family, community and other military families across the nation. In the weeks following Hurricane Katrina, Rochon and her sisters arranged for donations at her school. Their work led to pallets of goods that were shipped to New Orleans in support of Coast Guard and military families that lost everything in the hurricane.
Along with her father’s deployments, significant events in Rochon’s life further ignited her call to help others. During her junior year of high school, a close friend’s father was killed in action in Iraq. This loss was further compounded when a friend passed away in his sleep from an unknown heart condition. In the midst of tragedy in the community, Rochon’s father deployed to Iraq.
Rochon directed the fear and stress of her father’s deployment into her senior project and dedicated herself to researching vicarious post-traumatic stress disorder, a daunting topic that resonated with the predominantly Marine community in which she currently lives.
“Not all the scars of war are visible,” said Rochon. “I have had personal losses and fears that I have learned to cope with but it was because I was lucky to have people in my life that understood what I was going through. I have volunteered for four years with Hope For The Warriors and have met a lot of wounded heroes. This experience first made me aware of PTSD, or vicarious PTSD, and led me to understand that we need to be mindful that the wounds that are carried are not always visible but just as debilitating.”
Her project had rippling affects across the community when she created an awareness seminar for teachers in her county so they could understand the stresses that many students were going through. The seminar, required for area educators, was a resounding success and school administrators taped the session, which is now part of annual training for county teachers.
Rochon will graduate from high school in June and aspires to study political science in college. While she will be departing her community to go to college, she is leaving behind a wave of knowledge and support to educators, parents and students throughout the county. PTSD is a very real issue that is impacting servicemembers and in turn their families, but thanks to the efforts of Rochon, another community has come together to both respect and support military families.