Soldier Dad
Master Sgt. Rick Bauer enjoys some warm hugs from his children, 4-year-old twins RaeLeigh and Coleman, during the April 1 kickoff celebration for the Month of the Military Child at the Child Development Center. Bauer works at Fox Army Health Center.

With April comes spring -- and the Army's Month of the Military Child.

This year's month-long awareness of military-connected children kicked off April 1 with a ribbon cutting at the Child Development Center, followed by a parade and an impromptu dance festival for all the children and their teachers.

"For the last 23 years, the month of April has been used to provide us an opportunity to pay tribute to our nation's youngest heroes," said Kara Pleasant, president of Redstone Arsenal's Parent Advisory Council, who spoke at the kickoff ceremony.

"This is our time to recognize the unique challenges and struggles they face as well as acknowledge their contributions and unconditional support of our troops."

When a Soldier is deployed, his whole family must endure the separation. But that separation often falls hardest on the youngest members of the household, said Andre Terry, chief of Child and Youth Services.

"The Month of the Military Child is more than a recognition of our children. It's also a reflection of the strength of our families, and the support roles families, and especially children, have when their Soldier is deployed," Terry said.

"We have all come to realize that if we are family strong then we are Army strong. Family members, and especially youth and children, are affected by deployments and multiple deployments. We must work to keep families strong during a time of big sacrifices."

Children don't have a say in whether a parent will be deployed, and that makes them very special heroes, Pleasant said.

"They accept and understand there is a job to be done," she said. "So, if you have children and they have a deployed parent during this month, give them all the hugs and kisses they are missing. Give them understanding when they cry ... praise when they do something good ... but above all give them love because our children have the biggest and bravest hearts of all."

While the Month of the Military Child does put the focus on military-connected children, the children of DoD civilians, contractors and NASA civilians are also welcome to participate in the month's special activities on Redstone Arsenal.

"We are all a family here on post," Terry said.

Besides the kickoff parade last week, the month's activities included a ribbon cutting and dedication of the new School Age Services Center on Friday. There are several other upcoming events.

This Friday, April 10, children will participate in Olympics Day at the soccer field off Goss Road.

"It will be a fun day of obstacle courses and physical activity for the children," Terry said. "They'll run, play, crawl and jump. It's sort of an organization day for children."

Although Olympics Day is focused on the children of CDC, Terry said it is also open to home-school children or children not associated with CDC who would like to participate with their parents.

This Saturday, April 11, the annual Redstone Arsenal Easter Egg Hunt will once again take place at Vincent Park. This community-wide event will begin at 11 a.m.

Other events include the CDC open house on April 16 from 4:30-5:30 p.m., a visit by Spiderman at the CDC on April 17 beginning at 9:30 a.m. and at the SASC beginning at 3:30 p.m., and a visit to the CDC by the Bob Jones Drumline on April 27. During the week of April 19, which is the Week of the Military Child, special activities are planned for each day for the children at the CDC, with parents invited to a barbecue lunch on April 24. The month-long recognition will end on May 2 with the annual block party beginning at 1 p.m. outside the Youth Center on Vincent Road.

"Everything at the block party is free," Terry said. "There will be vendors, games, entertainment, food, arts and crafts, face painting. It is free and open to anyone who can get on post. DoD civilians, contractors and NASA employees -- we'd love for them to bring their children."

Besides planned activities, families might also want to take time out to recognize the Month of the Military Child by organizing their own special activity.

"Families should think about doing something special that they don't normally do," Terry said. "There are a lot of things right here on the Arsenal that families can enjoy. They can go for a walk on one of the nature trails, bowl at the bowling center, enjoy a book at the library, have a picnic at one of our parks, any number of things."

In recognition of the children of Redstone Arsenal personnel, Terry said Child and Youth Services has now waived all registration fees for children who want to sign up for one of its many programs.

"Children can now register for free to participate in our sports program, any of our instructional programs, participation at CDC or SASC, summer camp and other activities," Terry said.

"We are doing this because we recognize that keeping all our families strong supports our Soldiers. That's important to fulfilling the mission of our Army covenant. A lot of families, especially these days, can't afford $30 or $40 per child to register them. If you want to get your kids involved in our outstanding programs, now's the time to do it. We can provide all employees the luxury and convenience of bringing their child on post to participate in our programs, especially during the summer months when many older children are left home alone."

Page last updated Fri April 10th, 2009 at 12:17