Community ushers in month for military children
Children from the Patrick Henry Village Child Development Center use tiny megaphones to show their spirit during the Month of the Military Child kick-off walk on Patrick Henry Village in Heidelberg, Germany, April 1.

HEIDELBERG, Germany -- Residents of Patrick Henry Village in Heidelberg were greeted by an early morning procession full of loud and excited megaphone wielding youngsters, some of whom were on foot while others happily rode along in strollers driven by equally excited adults.

The proud procession of children, parents, community members and child care providers marched from the Patrick Henry Village Child Development Center to the elementary school to celebrate the start of the Month of the Military Child, Friday.

The annual kick-off was sponsored by Army Community Service, Department of Defense Dependents Schools and Child, Youth and School Services.

In the crowd, Sgt. Noelle Myers and her husband William Ingram, kept pace with their 5-year-old daughter, Joelle.

"We didn't get to come out last year together and support Joelle during the walk, so we definitely wanted to make it this year," Myers said. "We need to have celebrations like this to make it about them because our children are serving with us and they support us every day."

"We want to do whatever we can do today to make our children stronger in the long run," Ingram added.

Once the group arrived at the elementary school, everyone was ushered into the gym where guests circled up to participate in a spirited round of the "Hokey Pokey" dance to break the ice before U.S. Army Garrison Baden-Wuerttemberg commander Col. Bill Butcher read the official proclamation declaring the start of the Month of the Military Child.

"Celebrating the month of the military child is really about us saying 'thank you' to our children who sacrifice so much," Butcher said. "They sacrifice their parents being gone, the long hours that we dedicate to our nation through military service and they sacrifice by being away from friends and family by being over here in Europe."

As part of his official duties, Butcher also read the book "My Dad's a Hero," by Rebecca Christiansen, Jewel Armstrong and Jen Robertson amid cheers, cries and coos from the young audience members.

"Military children are our heroes," said Stephanie Morales, Parent Central Services director. "If you think about it, some of these children that are in our programs and in the child development center, have been living with deployments or some state of conflict their entire lives.

"That is their norm. They face deployment and separation anxieties from their parents every day," she explained.

According to Morales, this event has been going on since 2002, and she urged parents and community members to continue to show their support to military kids year round.

"Volunteer and become involved, that is the biggest help that you can provide to children," she said.

Morales said parents can come in and read to children, repair broken toys or serve as chaperons, coaches or tutors for children.

They can also participate in a parent advisory committee.

For community members who are not parents, but would still like to volunteer their time and talents to help kids, they can contact the Army Volunteer Corps representative at their local Army Community Service office.

The festive event concluded with Butcher and garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Annette Weber recognizing each child with an individual hero award for their service.

In 1986, Defense Secretary Casper Weinberger designated April as the Month of the Military Child.

A quarter of a century later, military installations, organizations and communities around the world continue to host special events and activities to pay tribute to military children.

April is also designated as Child Abuse Prevention Month.

Page last updated Fri March 30th, 2012 at 11:37