By Mr. Eric Pilgrim | Fort Knox NewsApril 11, 2019
"We're here today to celebrate the Month of the Military Child," a youth said during an April 11 assembly, "and to recognize both the sacrifices and struggles alongside the strength and resilience of military children all over the world."
So began a rousing Purple Up! For Military Kids Day tribute in Scott Middle School's gym at Fort Knox. The celebration included a speech by Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin and readings from three Purple Up! Writing Contest winners.
Joining Bevin at the standing-room-only event were Dr. Youlanda Washington, Kentucky Community superintendent of Fort Knox and Fort Campbell schools, U.S. Army Cadet Command and Fort Knox Commander Maj. Gen. John Evans Jr., Kentucky Commission on Military Affairs Executive Director retired Col. Blaine Hedges and Col. Pat Kaune, Fort Knox's garrison commander.
Prior to Bevin's speech, Evans shared with the students, faculty and staff a little about what his life was like growing up. He said much of it happened in one location, something he took for granted.
"I found out when I went to college that I was probably not as well prepared for that experience as I could have been because I hadn't experienced any type of diversity in my life," said Evans. "I hadn't had an opportunity to go through frankly the stresses that make us stronger as we have to adapt and be versatile in different environments."
He explained that the reason he shared his experiences was so the military youth at the assembly would understand they are better equipped to face future uncertainties having gone through multiple moves throughout their growing up years.
Bevin echoed Evans' sentiments, admitting that he too grew up in a small town similar to Evans'. Like Evans, he too joined the military.
"I do understand to some degree what some of you are going through, and I'm grateful to you for that because it's a challenge at times to be the child of someone in the military," said Bevin at the beginning of his speech. "But it is an incredible blessing, and the older you get, the more you'll realize that."
Having grown up on a farm in a family of eight, Bevin joined the Army out of college and served for a number of years, eventually resigning his commission at the rank of captain. He then pursued several business ventures after moving his family to Kentucky. He has been the governor of Kentucky since 2015.
Bevin asked the crowd how many of them had already experienced at least five different moves growing up. Several raised their hands.
"The reality is, that is not the norm per se in America," said Bevin. "But I will say this, it makes you resilient. These are the kinds of things that make you adaptable. The world needs people like you."
Bevin encouraged the students to pursue spiritual strength as they grow, relating it to one leg of a three-legged stool that provides them stability in life -- physical, mental and spiritual growth.
Afterward, Bevin and others enjoyed the musical talents of several students from the school, and Bevin declared April 2019 as Month of the Military Child in Kentucky, showing off the official document that he said would be left with them.
Purple Up! Day was established as a Department of Defense commemoration by former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger in 1986. It is celebrated each year during the Month of the Military Child and is intended to highlight "the important role military children play in the armed forces community," according to the Department of Defense Education Activity.
The day is commemorated by members of the armed forces wearing the color purple -- a color which represents all the service branches combined. Although Bevin didn't have on purple for the event, he walked away with a purple bulldog, given by the school's principal, Theresa Wilson.
Bevin showed off the representation of the school's mascot to the cheers of the students.
In the crowd sat 13-year-old Ezra Eckley, a Scott seventh grader. He said he has moved about six times so far and is preparing for another move this summer, this time to Pennsylvania.
"It's hard to leave old friends that you've had for a long time and then move, and move, and move and move," said Eckley. "It's becoming easier to make new friends, and the church family I go to really welcomed us to Kentucky and made it a whole lot easier."