The Department of Defense has long understood the value of caring for and celebrating children of service members.

April is designated as the Month of the Military Child, underscoring the role military children play in the armed forces community. Each April, Americans pause to recognize the nation's 1.8 million military children and applaud military Families for the daily sacrifices they make and challenges they overcome.

"We feel that our military children serve right alongside their parent(s). Our military children experience unique challenges related to their lifestyle and (Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation) is here to help them remain strong and resilient, all while having fun," said Wayne Bardell, FMWR director.

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Military children have unique lives and experiences. Army MWR is giving them a chance to showcase those experiences with the "Young Lives, Big Stories" contest starting Wednesday. Military children will be able to tell their story on what it means to be a military child through drawings, photos, videos or words for a chance to win great prizes. The contest is open to active-duty Army, National Guard and Reserve children preschool through 12th grade. More information can be found at www.armymwr.com/momc-big-stories.aspx.

"We also want to stress that April is Child Abuse Prevention Month," Bardell said. "Care of our children helps strengthen the health, security, and safety of our Families and communities."

Bardell said parenting is tough, regardless of the situation and the age of the child. Giving parents the tools to make them strong supporters of their children and to keep them safe from predators and from violence is crucial, he said.

"Child Abuse Prevention Month is particularly important because it's a social responsibility for our entire community to make sure our children are safe and their well-being is protected," he said.

Army Community Service offers resources for parents, such as the New Parent Support Program which examines parenting from the context of the military lifestyle, counseling and more at the ACS, Family Advocacy Program.

Fort Leonard Wood MWR has many events planned throughout the month to honor military children and Families.

Listed below are some of the activities that will be happening around the installation. For a detailed look at the month's activities, visit us at www.fortleonardwoodmwr.com.

Anger Management -- Session 3

Anger Management is scheduled from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., Wednesday, April 8, 15, 22, 29 and May 6 at ACS. The class will teach methods of dealing with anger before it gets out of hand and is free and open to authorized patrons. For more information call 573.596.0131, ext. 60212.

Couples in Arms -- Session 3

Couples in Arms is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 2, 9, 16 and 23 at ACS. The class is designed to help strengthen relationships by learning to talk without fighting. The class is free and open to authorized patrons who must register a week prior to session. For more information, call 573.596.0131, ext. 60212.

Mad Hatter Parade and Balloon Launch

Children of the Child Development Centers and the School Age Center will kick off the Month of the Military Child with their annual Mad Hatter Parade and Balloon Launch at 4:30 p.m. April 3 in front of the CDC. For more information call 573.596.0131, ext. 60196.

Flashlight Easter Egg Hunt

The FMWR Flashlight Easter Egg Hunt is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. April 3 at Colyer Park. This free event is a twist on the traditional Easter egg hunt, and teens 13 years and up are invited to bring a flashlight and a basket for an evening of hunting for Easter eggs in the dark. For more information, call 573.596.0131, ext. 66913.

7th Annual Easter Egg Hunt

FMWR's 7th Annual Easter Egg Hunt for infants and children is scheduled for 10 a.m. April 4 at Colyer Park. The free event is for ages 0-12. There will be a visit from the Easter Bunny and entertainment by Drum Safari beginning at 9 a.m. For more information, call 573.596.0131, ext. 66913.

20th Annual Community Fun Fair

20th Annual Community Fun Fair is scheduled from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 4 at the Child Development Center. This Month of the Military Child event will include activities, door prizes, give-a-ways, and lunch provided. The fun fair promotes Family wellness, child development, parenting skills through a variety of fun interactive activities. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, call 573.596.0131, ext. 60238.

The Seven Habits of a 24/7 Dad

ACS is scheduled to host "The Seven Habits of a 24/7 Dad," from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 11 at ACS. Learn what a 24/7 dad is and how to provide love, nurturance, guidance, and support "around the clock." For more information, call 573.596.0131, ext. 60115.

PT in the Woods

PT in the Woods is scheduled 6:30 to 7:30 a.m. April 16 at Gerlach Track. Celebrate the Month of the Military Child with your children with a 30-minute aerobic workout for service members and their Families. First 100 children receive a free T-shirt and all active-duty parents who participate will receive a voucher that can be used for one free day of physical training (with commander's approval). Event is open to the public and all military branches. For more information, call 573.596.0131, ext. 60209.

Free Drive-In Movie

Drive-in Movie, featuring "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day," is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. April 17 at Audie Murphy's Community Center. Audio will be provided via FM signal through your radio. Bring your own blanket and chairs. No pets allowed. No show if rain or high winds. Concessions will be available for purchase. For more information call 573.596.0131, ext. 66913.

(Editor's note: O'Donoghue is the FMWR marketing director.)