Dog Tags Help Keep Kids, Parents Connected

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 3, 2007 - A troop-support group in California is working to connect military parents and their children one dog tag at a time.

In May 2004, "Dog Tags for Kids" embarked on its mission to provide deployed military parents a tangible way to remind children that Mommy or Daddy, sometimes both, are thinking of them, Rose Sliepka, the group's founder, said.

"Back in 2004, I heard a story about a Marine who sent his kids a package from Iraq," she said. "The kids were so excited to get something from Dad."

It didn't seem to matter that the box contained only adhesive bandages and sunscreen, the only things he had access to, she said. "The kids didn't care; it came from Dad," she added.

"I tried to think of something we could send parents that (servicemembers) could easily send their children," Sliepka said. "The tags are the perfect thing. They're easy to send; they lift the morale of the unit when they receive them; and the child has something to hang on to when their parent is gone."

Each tag indicates whether it's from Mom or Dad, the parent's branch of service, and the year and the country in which the parent is serving. They can even be engraved in Spanish, Sliepka said.

Those interested in receiving a tag to send to a child back home can make that request through the Dog Tags for Kids Web site.

"There is no charge to the military or their families. Donations are used to purchase the blank tag, chain, bag and ... postage," Sliepka said. "Engraving, packaging, Web site monitoring ... is all done by about 20 volunteers.

"This project doesn't have any paid staff," she added. "Every 40 cents can provide another smile, so why would we spend it on anything else?"

Since the group's start, more than 250,000 dog tags have been sent to Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan for servicemembers to send to their children back home.

Though the dog tags are intended for any servicemember serving in those countries to send to their children, Sliepka said they're especially important for children of Guardsmen and reservists. "We tend to forget that with the amount of Guard and reserve members serving, their children are often the only ones in their school with a parent who is deployed," she said.

Dog Tags for Kids has recently become a supporter of America Supports You, the Defense Department program connecting citizens and corporations with military personnel and their families serving at home and abroad.

Sliepka said she hopes more servicemembers will learn about Dog Tags for Kids through this affiliation.

"More exposure for this project means we may be able to empower more parents with a way to reach out to their children even though they are halfway across the world," she said.

*Related Sites:*
Dog Tags for Kids  [ ]
 Dog Tags Help Keep Kids, Parents Connected [ ]