Throughout April, military commands around the world are celebrating the contributions and sacrifices military children continue to make while their parent or parents serve the nation.
Roughly two million military children in the United States are connected to the military through one or both parents, and the majority of that population is under 12 years old.
In 1986, then-Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger designated each April as “Month of the Military Child” to recognize the challenges those children face and celebrate their perseverance.
Desiree Clarke, a Children and Youth Programs administrator in Naval District Washington (NDW), said the constant transition of repeated deployments, Permanent Change of Station (PCS) moves nationally and internationally, and separation from parents causes a lot of stress for these young children.
Throughout the rest of this month, installations across NDW are hosting a variety of events designed for service members and their children, including field days, ice cream socials, bowling, talent shows, and parents’ nights out.
“It’s a good opportunity for them to be together as a family, which is a very positive thing,” said Clarke of the events this month. “Especially in the big events, turnouts are really, really good, which is a good sign that families were excited to get together and excited to do the activities we were offering.”
Getting senior leadership involved at individual installations is key to creating a larger impact, Clarke added. “It really does make the kids feel special when the [commanding officer] is involved,” she said.
Clarke, a military spouse with two children of her own, assists youth directors with putting together programs not only for the month’s celebrations, but throughout the rest of the year as well.
The Children and Youth Programs office provides before- and after-school programs for school age children, runs child development centers, and offers other outreach services such as seasonal camps and low-cost child care for military parents.
“It’s really a huge advantage and benefit to military families to have that available to them,” Clarke said of the child care, which costs much less than most private options. Throughout the year, there are always numerous programs being offered throughout NDW, she added.
“It’s important to acknowledge that military kids go through a lot of turmoil,” said Clarke. “Just acknowledging them during the month of April helps them realize their sacrifices are not unnoticed and they are important, too.”
Each year during an awards ceremony, Operation Homefront, a military and family assistance nonprofit organization, recognizes children representing each of the military branches who demonstrate exceptional leadership, scholarship and resilience.
The sixth annual Military Child of the Year award is scheduled to be presented April 10 at a gala event in Arlington, Va.
To find out more information about Month of the Military Child and share stories, visit www.monthofthemilitarychild.com.
For more news and information from NDW and around the region, go to www.facebook.com/NavDistWash.