CMF Kids

Children of Soldiers: The Kruse Family

Joan Dixon

Reviewed by Ubiquitous last fall, the 2010 NFB documentary film, Children of Soldiers: Life Under the Flag, followed families affected by recent deployments.

One family lost their soldier father.
One family is dealing with physical and mental (PTSD) repercussions.
One family lives apart from their soldier, five years running.
And at least one family is watching the next generation signing up to serve.

The film was publicly screened in Montreal, Toronto and Edmonton last year and is now available online to view in its entirety: Children of Soldiers and Enfants de Soldats. (If you haven’t yet had the opportunity, you will want to spend an hour viewing the film and then come back here for our updates on the families profiled.)

The Kruse children

Krusefamily_nov1_2010_STORY“I looked so young!” commented one of the young stars of the film, Children of Soldiers, when she watched it again recently, but she was surprised and not a little impressed — as everyone who sees the film can’t help being — with her unchildlike eloquence describing the conflicting pride and devastation she felt about her soldier father, Sgt. Greg Kruse. During the filming, she learned he was KIA in Afghanistan.

“My feelings haven’t changed,” she said. “I’m very proud of my father. But I miss him soooooo much.”

Now ensconced in their former New Brunswick neighbourhood, from where they had reluctantly decamped for her father’s assignment in Petawawa, she says being “home” is both wonderful — and difficult, too. The family learned of their reposting just before the tragedy and moved back as soon as they were able.

Their neighbourhood and neighbours might be comfortingly the same, but other things are not. She misses military family friends including Evan, who was in the film with her and who understands what it’s like to be a child of a soldier.

The family tent trailer is a stark reminder of camping trips with her dad; Kari now uses it mostly for sleepovers with her girlfriends, none of whom can truly understand what it’s been like for her, either as a soldier’s daughter, or fatherless.

Kari_may11_STORYShe keeps busy with cheerleading and drama, hoping one day to become an actress, but as part of her ongoing therapy to deal with her loss, she writes weekly private letters to her father, who she says is watching her grow up.

Kari’s mother Jill is writing, too, and trying to move on with her life without Greg. Like Kari, she is still as refreshingly candid as she was in the film. Both her good days and bad are shared with her empathetic networks, but she’s beginning to feel more ready to consider — and share publicly — the perspectives she’s gained.

As a busy single mum to three young daughters, she tries to count the blessings she finds, feeling fortunate, for instance, that they can now afford to participate in their passion for horseback riding.

Kari’s twin sisters Victoria and Megan were only six when they lost their father so they don’t have as many strong memories of him as Jill and Kari do. Maybe that’s a good thing, says the wise-beyond-her-years Kari, though she does feel sorry that they did not have the times with her father that she so fondly remembers. “I plan to be the best big sister and role model I can be, since our father can no longer be there for them.”

No doubt her father would be as proud of his amazing daughter as she is of him.

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Canadian Military Family Magazine