DARIEN, Ill. - The image of a hero is developed by each person's idea of what someone does to either sacrifice or helps others, and it is not often that a child or children are seen as heroes.
April is the Month of the Military Child, and this month celebrates the 27th year since the military child has been seen as a key component to sustaining the force. Assuring the strength of the family is a part of emphasizing the health, security and safety of our country's military members.
Recently, the 416th Theater Engineer Command Family Programs sponsored an event that enabled children of Soldiers to take time to spend with other military kids, learn about nutrition and methods to prepare nutritious and healthy meals.
"We took time out to recognize them and let them know how much we care about them. It was definitely fun and especially watching the younger ones who are probably not in the kitchen as much get their hands dirty," said Leeann Quashie, youth services specialist with the 416th TEC.
She added, "Especially if their military members are deployed, giving them activities to do definitely takes their minds off of that stress of their parent being deployed."
The event was held at a local cooking school specializing in cooking programs for children and offered a few military children the opportunity to learn and experience the process of meal preparation and its importance.
"It was a lot of fun what we did today. We made lasagna with spinach, mango and berry smoothies and chocolate cupcakes. It was a lot of fun what we did and it makes me feel special knowing that people are there for me," said Melanie Albers, 14, daughter of Lt. Col. Greg Nordyke, 416th TEC mobilization officer.
Nordyke, whose job it is to mobilize Soldiers, is aware of the stressors Soldiers face. By reassuring them their children are cared for helps release anxiety.
He added about his daughter's experience, "The unit cares about the family, and this shows they make an effort to work with families. My wife and I do a good job of getting our kids involved."
Spending time together can be difficult with duties and responsibilities. Children don't always know the complexities of what is involved, so times like these make for good family encounters.
Nordyke, who joined his wife and kids for lunch, stressed the need for family time and said, "Doing these events and getting some special time with them means a lot to me and it means a lot to them."
Laura Valcour, owner of Chefs for Day, where the class was held, said, "I think it's important that people have an understanding what it is the military does. To get a view, a glimpse into that world because all we know is when someone was deployed and then we don't see them for a time and they return."
This is an opportunity to get military children together to share experiences.
"This brings military kids together. Shows them they're not the only ones and celebrate better health," said Tammy De Benedetto, director of Family Programs for the 416th TEC. "The kids serve and the whole family serves."
Angelica Kadan, 12, daughter of Staff Sgt. Adli H. Kadan, currently deployed, summed it up and said, "I do things with other military kids. It's nice to share experiences."