FORT BRAGG, N.C. - "Every day you have to ask yourself what is most important. Well, what is most important to me and a lot of other Soldiers is when we get to wake our children up and put them back to bed at night. It is all about priorities and savoring the moments," said Staff Sgt. Courtney Smith, a Soldier, leader, and single mother.
The Army's most valuable resource is its people, it's Soldiers, and their families, and since 1986, April has been recognized as the Month of the Military Child.
The annual observance is a time to appreciate military children and families for their service and constant resilience: families like Smith's.
Smith, who has been a Soldier for 10 years and a mother for 8 years, said that times like Month of the Military Child are when she reflects on her family's opportunities and the services the military offers.
"The Army has given me the tools and the ability to support myself, and my family, better than I believe I could have in the civilian world," said Smith, a public affairs non-commissioned officer with the 22nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment. "The counselors that they have at Child and Youth Services and at the schools, the math and science clubs that allow my son to do some homework before I pick him up, and all of the other Child & Youth Services are all a great thing."
This time of the year affords opportunities for organizations from throughout the Department of Defense military community to spread awareness on family policies and programs geared toward aiding military children.
The 700 military child development program facilities that the Department of Defense has around the world, the 155,000 child-care spaces, the Department of Defense school system, and the Child & Youth Services programs are among just a few of the initiatives that are given special attention this time.
"It is really great for Soldiers to be able to see leadership spend real time and resources to make sure people actually know about the programs they can use to take care of their families," said Spc. ShaTyra Reed, the new mother of a nine-month-old baby. "It can be really scary to have all the responsibility of being a Soldier 24/7 and be a parent, but when you know about the tools that you can use, then it makes it a lot easier."
The concept for the Month of the Military Child was introduced by former Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger, and has been has been honored every year for the last 32 years.
This year's theme "Brave Hearts, Resilient Souls" focused on the resiliency and mental toughness of military children as they help support the military in locations all over the world.
Reed, a Lake City, Florida native who has served in the Army for five years, said that one of her key reasons for serving in the military is how well the Army helps her provide for her family.
"Every Soldier is supposed to care about selfless service, but when you become a parent it becomes so much more important, because your whole life revolves around taking care of your baby," said Reed, a public affairs mass communication specialist with the 22nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment. "I know that no matter what happens, the Army will make sure I have what I need to take care of my family."