By Staff Sgt. Tomora ClarkApril 26, 2016
FORT HOOD, Texas -- Losing your first tooth. Learning how to ride a bike. Driving a car. Those milestones may be similar for most people, however, military children may have to endure unique milestones of their own.
In 1986, the Department of Defense designated April as the Month of the Military Child to highlight the sacrifices and unique milestones of the military community's youngest members.
The military child is often faced with constant lifestyle changes whether it's frequent relocations, reintegration with parent(s) from a deployment or training, caring for wounded parents, and sometimes loss. The military child has to be resilient to withstand these unique milestones.
After four deployments and 19 years in the Army, Staff Sgt. Carlos Figueroa, a unit supply specialist with 3d Cavalry Regiment, said his 13-year-old son, Andre, is resilient.
"When my dad deploys or goes away for training, it's difficult," said Andre. "But, knowing he's helping the country makes me happy."
"I know being in the military is not always easy, especially for military children, but Andre has exceled by being resilient," Carlos said.
Andre Figueroa, is not only resilient but a well-round child, said Carlos.
"He gets good grades, and he cares for others in the community," said Carlos.
Carlos isn't the only one who praises Andre for his resilient, well-rounded qualities; his seventh grade choir teacher at Union Groove Middle School in Harker Heights sings praises of Andre as well.
"Andre is a wonderful student, and he is an honor roll student," said Deborah Barrick, the school's choir director. "He helps other students in my class, and he cares a lot about the other students' well-being. He even volunteers his time in choir to help other students in my class, and that's a quality I wish other students would emulate."
With his willingness to help others, Andre often spends his time volunteering with local community organizations.
"I [volunteer] because I wanted to help make an impact on the community; it makes me happy to see other people happy," said Andre.
One of the organizations Andre volunteers with is Wreaths for Vets, which is a non-profit organization geared toward dedicating a holiday wreath at each grave at the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery every year.
"I found out about Wreaths for Vets through a friend at school," said Andre. "I thought it would be a cool way to show my appreciation for all that the military does for us."
"There are a lot of people in the community who need help, and I'm proud my son is helping others," said the proud father. "For him to volunteer his time at such a young age is truly amazing."
Andre said he laid the wreaths after Thanksgiving and he retrieved the wreaths after the start of the New Year.
Last year, the organization helped lay over 4,500 wreaths. The organization is supported through donations.
"I also helped collect donations for Wreaths for Vets," said Andre.
Carlos said his son helped raise over $3,000 dollars in donations through his volunteering contribution over a 30-hour time span.
"He gets his friends involved too," said Carlos.
When he is not volunteering with the seasonal Wreath for Vet organization, Andre volunteers at local homeless shelters by helping his mother and friends pack lunch.
"I wrote a different inspirational message on each [brown paper lunch] bag before we packed them because those messages can sometimes help people out when they are having a difficult time," said Andre. "Some of the messages I wrote on the bag I came up with myself, and others I looked up online."
As for Andre's future, Carlos said his son has endless possibilities.
"He can accomplish anything he puts his mind to do as long as he remains resilient and positive," said Carlos.
Andre has accomplished many milestones throughout his life as a military child and aspires to do more in the future.
"I have a bunch of jobs in mind for when I get older; I want to be a neurosurgeon, cardiologist, or an [Emergency Medical Technician] because knowing I saved someone's life would make me extremely happy," said Andre about his future career aspirations.