America Supports You: Military Kids Get Special Recognition
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 8, 2008 Military children and their sacrifices took center stage here last night during a reception attended by Defense Department dignitaries.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates talks with 10-year-old Will Bacon, right front, his brother, Jake, 9, and their mother, Christine, during an Our Military Kids reception in Washington, D.C., to honor military children April 7, 2008. The boys' father, Missouri National Guard Maj. Matt Bacon, is currently deployed to Iraq. Photo by Samantha L. Quigley, Department of Defense
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
“Our Military Kids,” a nonprofit organization that provides grants that keep children of deployed National Guardsmen and reservists engaged in extracurricular activities, honored these special members of the military community.
“Our servicemen and women may be called to pay the highest price,” Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said. “Their families -- and children in particular -- make a significant sacrifice, as well.
“Organizations like this one help our military kids feel special and loved,” he continued. “They make a tremendous difference in the lives of America’s youngest heroes.”
Several of these young heroes attended the event, but two brothers, Will and Jake Bacon, got a little special attention.
With their father, Missouri Army National Guard Maj. Matt Bacon, deployed to Iraq, the boys qualified for, applied for, and received a pair of $167 grants to play baseball from Our Military Kids.
The grants were special to the boys because they meant being able to continue an activity they love, but they were special for Our Military Kids, as well. The pair of grants pushed the organization over the $1 million mark in awards.
“At first, they thought they won a million dollars,” said Christine Bacon, the boys’ mother. “Once I explained it, ‘No, your grant put them over the million-dollar (mark),’ they thought it was pretty cool.”
And it turned out to be even cooler; it earned them a trip to the nation’s capital for the event. With that trip came a visit to the International Spy Museum, some sightseeing and a visit with “Grammy and Grandpa” Bacon. All this was exciting, but each brother had his own opinion on what his favorite part of the trip had been.
“My favorite thing was riding around on the bikes,” Jake said of the sightseeing tour the family took. Will disagreed, preferring the National Hockey League to the national monuments. “We got to go to a Capitals game,” he said.
The one thing the brothers can agree on is that they miss their dad, who has been deployed since June 10. Though they get to talk to him every Saturday and Sunday and get daily e-mails, it’s just not the same as having him home coaching.
“He tells me to scoot back or to go forward when I’m catcher,” said Will, who’s looking forward to playing first base this year. “It’s a bit easier because it’s more accurate, and (the ball isn’t) going that fast.” Bacon is expected home around the first of June.
Gates said the Bacon family exemplifies the patriotism and dedication of the country’s reserve force. Bacon’s father is a retired Army Reserve chaplain, and his mother is an Army Reserve judge advocate general officer. All three -- mother, father and son -- were deployed to Iraq in 2003.
Will and Jake are just two of the nearly 3,000 children of deployed Guardsmen and reservists who have benefitted from Our Military Kids’ $1 million in grants in the three short years since the group began.
“This event provides Our Military Kids an opportunity to publically recognize the military children that are asked to be supportive of their parents who serve our country,” said Linda Davidson, Our Military Kids co-founder. “We applaud these families for the daily sacrifices they make and the many challenges they overcome during lengthy deployments and separations.”
Gail Kruzel, the organization’s other co-founder, said Our Military Kids will continue to applaud these families and will strive for even bigger goals in the future.
“Tonight we’re celebrating the fact that we have given out a million dollars in grants,” she said. “But this year, we plan to give out a million dollars in 2008.”
Our Military Kids is a supporter of America Supports You, a Defense Department program connecting citizens and companies with servicemembers and their families serving at home and abroad.