JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas -- Each year, communities worldwide look to April as an important month for children who have one or both parents or guardians serving in uniform.
Considered the military’s youngest heroes, in many ways children serve too. That’s why we honor them during the observance of Month of the Military Child.
Established in 1986 by Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, the Department of Defense continues the Month of the Military Child initiative today. Sponsored by DOD Military Community and Family Policy, the month-long observance acknowledges the important role military children play in their communities and honors their strength, bravery and resilience.
The month is a nationally recognized celebration honoring military service members' children with an ever-increasing number of awareness campaigns to celebrate them worldwide. On both military installations and local military-connected communities activities take place and everyone can participate.
The highly mobile, military lifestyle impacts every member of the family with frequent relocations, and a life of uncertainty and change being the norm. Children sacrifice close relationships and endure deployments or separations along with their loved ones in uniform.
Recognition for our youngest heroes is deserved because being part of a military family is something they were born into.
“When we sign on the dotted line to serve our nation, we understand that it comes with great sacrifice and long hours,” said Maj. Gen. Tom Wilcox, Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center commander, “but we need to also remember when we go on a temporary duty assignment, deploy or start the process to pack up to move to another installation, our kids are dealing with it too.”
Military children face countless difficult goodbyes, speaking in acronyms, transferring to far-off places, and learning to bloom where they are planted in new schools and communities. Military children didn't choose a life of service, but they live it commendably and come out of their experiences stronger, more resilient and courageous.
As commander of a unit that plays a large role in supporting families at installations with youth and recreation programs, child development centers, school liaison offices and quality housing, Wilcox said the month is special to a large part of his team, but it’s also a year-round endeavor to take care of military children and appreciate all that they bring to the military family.
“We see or hear every day about how strong and resilient our military kids are and we’re proud of them and proud to support them with the many programs and services we deliver around the globe,” the general said.
In conjunction with Month of the Military Child, Purple Up! is a specific day when people and communities show support for military children.
“Military children find their circle of friends wherever they may be. Understanding and acknowledging our unique culture helps military children feel more accepted and comfortable,” said Col. Christopher Parrish, Air Force Services Center commander. “Nearly two million U.S. military-connected children live at home and abroad, supporting their mom, dad, or both. April is our chance to show them we’ve got their wing and know they are serving too.”
Purple has a special meaning in the military, representing anything that is joint in nature where all branches of the nation’s military services work together for a common goal. States and community stakeholders pick a day to celebrate. Everyone can show their appreciation for military children by wearing purple, posting signs and showing commitment to and camaraderie with these young heroes.
Showing support for Purple Up! and Month of the Military Child activities is a visual encouragement for military-connected students and families. The connection allows them to understand others’ efforts to recognize their unique lifestyle. Use #MOMC, #MilKids, #MilFam and #PurpleUp to share your activities and photos on social media.
Military communities sponsor most activities, so search for events at an installation’s school liaison office, military and family readiness center, DOD Dependent School administration office, public affairs, or child and youth programs.
In her book “Military Brats: Legacies of Childhood Inside the Fortress,” Mary Edwards Wertsch wrote, “We are the children of warriors. And although it was initially a role not of our choosing, it is a role perpetuated by many of us with pride … It is an attitude, a way of being."
(Editor’s Note: Phipps is director of the Department of the Air Force’s School Liaison Program)