Defense Department Celebrates 'Month of the Military Child'
By Steven Donald Smith
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 3, 2006 The Defense Department has long understood the value of caring for and celebrating children of servicemembers.
April is designated as the Month of the Military Child, underscoring the important role military children play in the armed forces community. The Month of the Military Child is a time to applaud military families and their children for the daily sacrifices they make and challenges they overcome.
Military children face many obstacles unique to their situation, such as having a parent deployed for extended periods of time and frequently being uprooted from school.
"Military children endure a great deal of change as a result of a parents military career," Douglas Ide, a public affairs officer with the Army's Community and Family Support Center, said. "The military family averages nine moves through a 20-year career. And in doing so, their children must say goodbye to friends, change schools, and start all over again."
Throughout the month, numerous military commands will plan special events to honor military children. These events will stress the importance of providing children with quality services and support to help them succeed in the mobile military lifestyle, defense personnel and readiness officials said.
"Installations are honoring military children by providing the month packed with special activities that include arts and crafts shows, picnics, carnivals, fairs, parades, block parties and other special activities, focusing on military children that highlight the unique contributions they make," according to a Defense Department fact sheet.
The Defense Department will also launch a new toolkit series called "Military Students on the Move." The toolkit includes material designed to promote more efficient and effective methods of moving military children from school to school. The toolkit includes material for parents, children, installation commanders and school officials, Defense Department officials said.
In addition, the U.S. Air Force recently launched its "Stay Connected" deployment program kits in conjunction with the Month of the Military Child. The kits include items like teddy bears, writing pens and disposable cameras.
"The purpose of the Stay Connected kit is to provide young people and parents an avenue to keep a connection during the deployed members' time away from home," Eliza Nesmith, an Air Force family member programs specialist said. "The items in the kit come in pairs, so that the young person and parent can have an item that will help them remember each other."
Air Force bases will choose the best distribution method to correspond with an existing event or develop a new event to best serve their families. For example, Andrews Air Force Base, Md., will give out Stay Connected kits to deploying servicemembers during its basewide Month of the Military Child celebration, planned for April 8, Nesmith said.
Throughout the month of April, the U.S. Navy child and youth programs will also be hosting special programs and events to salute military children. These events will include, carnivals, health screening for children, youth talent shows, and more, Navy officials said.
"Events that celebrate the Month of the Military Child stress the importance of providing children with quality services and support to help them succeed in the mobile military lifestyle," Larrie Jarvis, a Navy child and youth programs analyst said.
Army bases will plan their own events such as fun runs, bicycle safety courses, carnivals, fishing derbies, community service projects, and other events geared specifically toward children and youth, Army officials said.
The Month of the Military Child is part of the legacy left by former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, who died March 28. He established the Defense Department commemoration in 1986.