By Moranda Hern & Kaylei Deakin
Moranda Hern and Kaylei Deakin were two high school students grappling with the experience of growing up as military daughters. After attending The Women’s Conference in 2008, they decided to use those challenges to inspire and support military daughters nationwide.
When we first met each other we realized that we shared the various experiences of having a parent deployed in the military. We immediately got that ‘aha’ feeling – I’m not the only one who went through these struggles. Military girls go through so many unique challenges, especially during the tender ages of 13-18. Girls often feel completely alone while a parent is deployed, and they may react by failing school, cutting themselves, developing eating disorders or depression. We realized that other girls across the nation must be feeling the same isolation – and that those girls also needed a way to connect and get support. We asked ourselves “What did those girls need?” And then it came to us -- a conference.
One year later, it’s about to really happen. On November 21st, the first group of 13-18 year old military daughters will register for our Sisterhood of the Traveling BDUs Conference. The name of the conference plays on the title of a book and movie series popular among tween and teen girls -- The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. “BDU” is a military term and stands for Battle Dress Uniform.
Our conference will be held in Clovis, California and last two days, starting on Friday with a purple carpet event. (Purple is symbolic of joint military services). We want it to be a fun night with a fashion show – featuring normal day looks to college interview looks and, of course, we’ll show the girls how to do makeup. The night will close with a semi-formal event. Our whole thing has been – when girls come, we want them to be actually smiling.
On Saturday, our conference will turn more serious. We’ll offer resources, breakout sessions and inspiring speakers. We’ll get to the core of what military girls go through. The day will have an evolutionary sense with a self-esteem session in the morning. We will then continue with leadership building – offering tools for public speaking and advice from people who have gone through similar issues. In the afternoon the attendees will learn how to take what they’ve learned to become leaders in their own communities.
We’ve been lucky to already have a number of sponsors lined up, as well as speakers like Jess Weiner, who spoke at The Women’s Conference in 2008. Jess Weiner is a self-esteem expert and the Global Ambassador for the Dove Self-Esteem Fund. She is a real supporter and is so nice. A year ago we were watching her [speak at The Women’s Conference]; now we’re having lunch with her. We’re also hoping to do something with the Dove campaign about self-esteem. We’re looking to partner with them.
With all this attention on surviving the tolls of being a military daughter, you might think that we’re anti-military. Quite the contrary. In August I (Kaylie Deakin) joined the Marines through the delayed entry program. And I (Moranda) will start Basic Training at the Air Force Academy on June 24, 2010.
We’re really proud of our parents. The military is a lifestyle, a community – something we enjoyed growing up with. We make the point – we wouldn’t be going into the military if we didn’t feel that way. The next generation of military children will be in a much different situation – having grown up with The Sisterhood of the Traveling BDUs.
Hern and Deakin are hoping to raise $150,000 to cover their event costs. They are taking donations at different sponsorship levels on their website www.sisterhoodbdus.org. They are also selling Impact Your Image DVDs (which offer makeup tips) at www.supportthesisterhood.com to raise money for the conference. For every DVD purchased, The Sisterhood of the Traveling BDUs will donate one DVD to a woman with cancer.
Moranda Hern is a home schooled, high school senior. She enjoys diving, traveling, and can't wait to begin serving in the United States Air Force. Moranda starts for Basic Training at the Air Force Academy June, 24, 2010.
Kaylei Deakin is a senior at Elk Grove High School. She enjoys band, paintball, and looks forward to her career as a Marine. Kaylei leaves for Marine Boot Camp in Paris Island in July 2010.
Photo by Chloe Segovia