Heidelberg ushers in month of military child
April 13, 2012
HEIDELBERG, Germany - The tiny, yet authoritative voice sounded over the sea of voices in front of the Child Development Center on Patrick Henry Village in Heidelberg April 2: "Come on everybody. Hold my hand. Let's go!"
As if drawn together by magnets, a handful of preschoolers did just as 3-year-old Chelsea Watlington asked.
They were soon joined by nearly 80 other children, who marched in the 11th annual Month of the Military Child Opening Walk from the CDC to Patrick Henry Elementary School.
The walk was sponsored by Army Community Service, Department of Defense Dependents Schools and Child, Youth and School Services and was declared the official kickoff for the Month of the Military Child by U.S. Army Garrison Baden-Württemberg Commander Col. Bryan DeCoster, said Stephanie Morales, Child Youth and School Services Parent and Outreach Services Director.
DeCoster's proclamation, found on the Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation website at www.mwrgermany.com, indicates more than 40 percent of Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines have left families with children behind, and more than 1 million American children have at least one parent serving on active duty.
"The walk was a huge success, and the kids had a great time. They loved it. They like getting out of the building, and the Military Police on the Segwey had a great time, I think, too," Morales said.
The children, some accompanied by their parents, were led by Sgt. 1st Class Rhonda Tutewiler, Provost Marshal Office, on a T3 Motion electric vehicle, DeCoster, Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Annette Weber and Sandy Hill, chief of USAG BW CYSS, who were holding a CYSS banner and bright smiles.
The group spontaneously burst into song after about 10 minutes "I am an American hero …" they trilled. The song, partially influenced by "Yankee Doodle," was written by Van Edwards, PHES's music teacher.
Excited cries of, "There they are," rang out as children from the Mark Twain Village CDC dismounted a bus and merged into the line of walkers.
The Benjamin Franklin Village CDC from Mannheim also joined the group.
Just before 10 a.m., the Drug Abuse Resistant Education's lion mascot met the parade at the school.
They then filtered into the multi-purpose room, where kids recited the pledge of allegiance and sang "America the Beautiful."
Then DeCoster read what he referred to as one of his favorites: "My Dad's a Hero," by Rebecca Christiansen, which lists all the reasons the military father is a hero and ends with the child realizing that he or she is, as well.
Third, fourth and fifth grade students dressed in Army Combat Uniforms and heads donned with either black berets or patrol caps danced in unison to music while using elements of American Sign Language to form words as they shuffled their feet.
The Month of the Military Child was designated in April 1986 by then-Defense Secretary Casper Weinberger, who wanted to honor military kids for their sacrifices and courage.
"Military children need to be recognized, because they go through so many different things. Their lives are so different compared to [their peers'], because they are always dealing with the challenges of a deployment of a parent, of moving," Morales said.
Morales added that military children have grown accustomed to changing careers and promotions as they become older, and they are owed unique support on behalf of the adult military community.
"At CYSS, we want to make sure we provide quality care to children to make sure we support them so they can succeed in their mobile lifestyle. We want to bring this to the forefront of the community: Children are important to us, and we care about them," Morales added.
Parents who volunteer their time any time of the year at CYSS can earn Parent Participation Points that equate to 10 percent off child care bills for every 10 hours logged, Morales said. Points can be collected by serving as chaperones, coaches and tutors, and reading to children.