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“We Signed Up, Too” – Lessons Learned as a Military Child

Sinaiyah Emami, 15, and her sister Azara, 13, with their parents, both Air Force veterans
Sinaiyah Emami, 15, and her sister Azara, 13, with their parents, Omy (left) and Nima, both Air Force veterans. Sinaiyah shares her experiences growing up the child of a wounded warrior.

Growing up as the daughter of an Air Force veteran wounded in service, Sinaiyah Emami, 15, often took pen to paper to capture her feelings. After a particularly stressful time in mid-2023, the aspiring journalist began to wonder if she could use her writing to raise awareness of the invisible wounds many service members return home with and the effect they can have on their families.

“Invisible. That’s how I felt as my family had to overcome the many interruptions thrown at us because of the injuries inflicted on my dad by war.”

Those words began Sinaiyah’s first-person essay, which chronicles her father’s journey to becoming a wounded warrior and how her mental health was affected as a result.

"The life of the child of an injured veteran is a hard one, but it doesn’t have to be,” Sinaiyah wrote.

“I truly believe my experience would have been different if more people had a greater understanding of traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder and lent greater support.”

Sinaiyah, and her sister Azara, 13, aspire to publish a blog to help military children find camaraderie and support. She shares below the skills and advice she learned growing up with a wounded warrior. 

We must recognize the struggles of military children... because they signed up, too.

Never be ashamed.

Having a family that is different can be hard, but never allow your situation to make you feel inferior to others. People’s reactions to you, your veteran parent, or your family may stem more from their lack of knowledge of the circumstances. Embrace the opportunity to inform or educate others.

Find your allies.
Because of the constant uncertainty that comes with being in the military, it is easy to feel isolated and alone, especially if you live states or countries away from family and friends. Then there is the uncertainty that comes with having a family member who is suffering from wounds they endured in war. 

I learned it is easy to become bitter and closed off and not allow others in, especially when people who I thought were there for me, for our family, did not understand that my dad wasn’t the same after he was wounded. He had been fun and lighthearted and always enjoyed being with his family and friends, but he suddenly became distant and disconnected.

It was extremely hard enduring sideways glances and disapproving looks from friends and strangers. At one point, I began to shut down. I had no will to live, make friends, or even trust anyone. It was hard feeling like I was suffering alone, watching as my mom struggled to care for my sister and me, yet at the same time be a caregiver to my father.

Since then, I have learned one valuable lesson from being a military kid: blocking ourselves from others only isolates us further.  We were not made to be alone. Humans are social creatures.

Sinaiyah and her dad enjoy time together – Alt caption goes here

Sinaiyah and her dad enjoy "Daddy-Daughter" outings to ensure they stay connected.

It is hard, but we must find ways to surround ourselves with people who can support us. We may have to take the first step to find allies, but the value of being with people we can trust, who will listen, offer hugs, and provide encouragement, is priceless.  Fostering healthy relationships now will help us so much in the long run.

Keep communication open within your family.

Looking back, I feel there is a dividing line between the times before my dad was injured and after – BI (before injury) and AI (after injury). Frankly, it seems like two completely different lives. Everything in my life changed when my dad was hurt. It wasn’t like a “sibling going off to college” type of change; it was more of a world-shaking, upside-down, chaos-everywhere scenario. The biggest and hardest changes were the family roles. I witnessed my younger sister step up in a way that no child at the tender age of 6 should have. That was when my dad had a stroke, and our lives were turned upside down. I felt a similar weight fall on me.

In these situations, it is so easy to feel like we are shooting at a bullseye in pitch darkness. And that is where communication comes in. Being intentional about open communication within your family will exponentially relieve some of the stress and burdens of any uneasiness and tension. Find dedicated time to rebuild family bonds.

One of the things my dad and I do now is to go on monthly daddy-daughter dates. Whether going out for a walk or grabbing a scoop of chocolate ice cream, these are special times for us to connect away from the noise and busyness of life and grow our relationship. I find that I gain clarity as we talk through challenges or uncomfortable things. These are times I can just be with my dad.

Ask for help.

One of the challenges many children of military-injured veterans experience is burnout. Because we often step in to help care for our loved one, it is easy for us to neglect ourselves and fall into a daily routine of waking up, going to school, helping out, going to sleep.

Monotony takes over, and we lose the joy of life.

On my journey, I’ve learned that children of wounded veterans face an increased risk of secondary post-traumatic stress disorder. In short, this is a response you can feel when you witness or hear about a traumatic event experienced by another person. An unfortunate reality is that children of veterans can subconsciously pick up on behaviors or fears our parent with PTSD have, and then we make it our own. That’s why I cannot stress this enough: check on yourself and make sure you are vocal about your feelings. Talk to your parents or a therapist or bring your feelings up to someone you trust. Your mental health concerns are valid, and you deserve to be heard. 

 The sisters and their Dad enjoying time in front of a holiday tree – Alt caption goes here

Sinaiyah and her sister enjoy celebrating holidays together as a family.

Lean into your faith.

I know that not everyone has the same faith – and some may have no faith at all. But for me, I don’t believe I would be where I am today if it were not for my faith. Whenever I felt like the weight of the world was crushing me, I found that when I listened to certain music, read my Bible, or just prayed, I found peace. I knew in those moments that, although life was not perfect, I had given all my worries and problems over.  I must confess, however, there were times when I still felt alone. Looking back, though, I realized I was being carried all along – just like the parable about the footprints in the sand.

No matter your beliefs, I encourage you to forgive. What I mean is that your veteran parent may say or do things that are a symptom of or in response to their combat-related injuries. Realize they may not mean what they say or do. Your loved one may actually feel shame or remorse.

When I forgave my dad for all that had happened – remembering that it was not him but his brain injury or his brain’s response to his PTSD – I felt truly free. And as a result, our relationship, although not perfect, has grown.

Advocate and raise awareness.

The experience of every veteran and their family is different. They are like a fingerprint. While some families’ stories may appear similar, each is unique to the warrior and their family. We must recognize the struggles of military children and their families because they signed up, too. Even though it can be difficult, by being vocal about our experiences, we can shed light on the struggles and hopefully help save other children from suffering in the shadows of stigma and misunderstanding. 


Sinaiyah’s father, Nima, was first introduced to Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) after being wounded in Afghanistan, but it wasn’t until he suffered a stroke and medically retired a few years later that the entire family became involved with WWP™.

Through the years, the Emami family has remained actively involved and benefitted from various WWP programs and resources from WWP’s community partners, including Our Military Kids. Through scholarships and engaging activities, Sinaiyah and her sister have met other children of wounded veterans and enjoy many experiences, from cycling events to beach outings, theatre performances, and equine therapy.

Learn more about WWP opportunities to connect with other warriors and families, as well as mental health programs.

Contact: Cynthia Weiss – Public Relations,, 904.738.2589

About Wounded Warrior Project
Since 2003, Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) has been meeting the growing needs of warriors, their families, and caregivers — helping them achieve their highest ambition. Learn more.

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