Maria Ross and her children Darren, right, and Destiny, left, enjoy the School Age Services Junior Idol competition, one of SAS's events honoring Month of the Military Child. Ross's children and the children at U.S. Army Garrison Hohenfels represent just a fraction of the more than 1.7 million American children under the age of 18 have at least one parent serving in the military.

HOHENFELS, Germany -- While no one tries to pretend that life as a military child is easy, those most up-front about the hardships they face are the children themselves.

Ask a group of children of any age what it's like being a military child and they won't shy away from telling it like it is.

Ten-year-old Eliana Reagin will tell you right away that she has moved seven times and attended three different schools, one of them for just two months.

Seven-year-old Veronica Whitt will admit it is hard on both her and her mother when her father is deployed.

"He does a lot of fun stuff I miss when he's gone. He's strong and helps keep up together," she said. "When he's gone I pray for him that God will protect him."

Though as eager as they are to talk about the hardships that come with being raised in the military, they also are quick to acknowledge the advantages that come with it, especially for children living in Europe.

"You get to visit places most people have never been," said 11-year-old Zarayia Fuller.

"It's fun living here because when you grow up you can say you lived in Germany," said Timia Gilbert, also 11.

Those conflicting feelings are something Mary Helbling, lead child and youth program assistant at U.S. Army Garrison Hohenfels School Age Services, said she understands from raising three military children herself.

Helbling said she and the rest of the Installation Management Command-Europe Child, Youth and School Services staff at Hohenfels try to provide the children with programs and care that help them make the most of their situation.

"I keep telling my kids what an opportunity they have here," she said. "Who goes to Italy for their senior skip day or has prom in a castle' How many kids get to spend spring break in Czech building a playground with Club Beyond' The opportunities are there for them, they just have to realize it."

Both Helbling and the children at SAS said that one of the positive aspects their life offers is the friends military children can make worldwide.

"Most (military children) are not shy. They are really into people. That's helped my kids personally," she said, adding that her teenagers still communicate with friends in Poland, Italy and Korea.

And of course there is one thing military children share no matter where in the world they live.

"I'm very proud of my Dad because he's helping his country and risking his only life to do it," said Whitt. "He risks his life for his country, to protect you, this school and the whole country. So I'm very proud of him for doing that and so is my mom."

To say "thank you" for the sacrifices military children make every day SAS held special programs throughout spring break, culminating in an American Idol inspired Junior Idol competition and a playground barbeque.

On April 17 CYSS also hosted Kinderfest, its main Month of the Military Child event, with games, prizes, puppet shows, military displays, working dog demonstrations and more.

Page last updated Mon April 27th, 2009 at 04:00