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I am SCHRIEVER: Mommy's mini-me

Jessica Foster, daughter of Staff Sgt. Marie Foster, has endured more challenges than many 5-year-olds and will soon feel the wave of change again as her mother leaves for a year-long assignment to Korea. During her mother’s past deployment and temporary duties, Jessica has remained strong and has helped her father take care of her siblings. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration/Staff Sgt. Debbie Lockhart)

Jessica Foster, daughter of Staff Sgt. Marie Foster, has endured more challenges than many 5-year-olds and will soon feel the wave of change again as her mother leaves for a year-long assignment to Korea. During her mother’s past deployment and temporary duties, Jessica has remained strong and has helped her father take care of her siblings. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration/Staff Sgt. Debbie Lockhart)

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- As they grow, military children typically face more change and uncertainty than most children. Jessica Foster knows this first-hand.

Jessica is only 5 years old, and recently received the news that her mother will soon be leaving for Korea for a year-long assignment.

"A year is a long time," said Jessica's mother, Staff Sgt. Marie Foster, 11th Space Warning Squadron. "Especially when you leave in May... you miss everything--all the birthdays, all the holidays--but she hasn't been upset with me or anything."

Instead of getting upset, Jessica focuses her energy on helping her father take care of her older sister, Morgan, who has special needs, and her younger brother, Charlie.
"I help Morgan fix her bed in the morning," said Jessica.

But Jessica does so much more to help her family than just making beds.

"She helps her sister with her homework, helps her brother with diaper changes and potty training, makes sure we never leave the house without her sister's medicine and snacks--she just takes it all in stride," said Foster.

Morgan often has many medical and therapy appointments, and Jessica is always there by her big sister's side to provide comfort and encouragement.

"We were lucky enough to do free swimming lessons at Donna's Dolphins for Morgan this year and we took Jessie with us," said Foster. "Morgan had some anxiety about getting in the pool and Jessie was a cheerleader the whole time. Even though she was upset she couldn't get in the pool, she was still at the side of the pool cheering Morgan on. Even when she doesn't get what she wants she still is encouraging everyone around her. She is just really special in that way."

Each day, Jessica surprises her parents with how selfless and resilient she is. Due to medical issues, the Fosters recently decided to homeschool Morgan. When Jessica heard the news, she decided she was going to be homeschooled, too.

"When we were talking to the family about Morgan not going to public school anymore, Jessie just decided to do that too," said Foster.  "She wanted to stay home with Morgan, and my husband and I just looked at each other and said 'OK.'"

Jessica wanted to be homeschooled to be near and help Morgan.

"I love my sister," said Morgan. "She helps with my work."

Although the decision to homeschool was originally meant to be for Morgan, the change has benefited Jessica as well.

"Before, Jessica was bored because things were moving really slow, and now it is moving right at her pace," said Foster. "She is just flying through everything. We're actually teaching her at a first grade level now."

As the girls continue to hone their reading and writing skills, the family has come up with a project to give Jessica and Morgan practice.

"[During the upcoming assignment] we're going to do letters," said Foster.  "I'm going to write them once a week since they can read and write now. When we get back, we'll make a book with the letters and pictures and that will be our special project."

The Fosters hope writing letters will also help to make their time apart pass quickly.

"Military children are so resilient and mature and flexible," said Foster. "Even though you never want to tell your kids that something is more important than them - because nothing really is more important than them - but the military, sometimes it has to come first."

Jessica understands why her mommy has to leave and why she works long hours.

"I explain that if I don't go, that means someone else's mommy has to go and we don't want that," said Foster.

For now, Jessica is enjoying her time with her mom, but when the time to leave comes, she plans to continue to practice ballet, rock her math homework and take care of her family.

"She is the perfect military kid and my number one supporter," said Foster.