FORT LEE, Va. – “This month is all about you, kiddos,” announced Child and Youth Services Coordinator Tamara Johnson as she opened the virtual Month of the Military Child kickoff program here April 1.
Celebrated annually, MOMC is a time to honor the sacrifices of military families around the world. The emphasis is on youngsters who demonstrate resilience and bravery while dealing with the demands of Army life. Col. Karin L. Watson, Fort Lee garrison commander, elaborated on its purpose during the livestreamed event.
“The theme for this year’s observance is ‘Military Children and Youth: A Resilient Force in a Changing World,’” Watson said. “Any military parent will realize instantly how on-point that really is. Military children get to do amazing things like meet new people, travel all over the world, experience different cultures and much more.
“As incredible as that may be, however, the change and pace of military life also can be really difficult. … They face the challenges of missing parents during long deployments, having to frequently say goodbye to friends and relocating to different schools.”
Watson shared the fact that she grew up in a dual-military-parent home, and her own high-school-age kids are now encountering many of the same challenges. She said she “feels the pain” when her son has to compete over and over again for a spot on the football team or her daughter agonizes over finding her place at a new school.
“The important thing through it all – whether the times were challenging or incredibly rewarding – is that we persevered not just as our own family but as part of the larger Army Family,” Watson concluded. “At Fort Lee, we want to continue reminding our kids they are part of that larger Army Family as well. We are here for them, just as we are for (others in the community).”
Johnson shared similar views later in the program. “You’re the ones moving to different locations and parts of the world more than any of us,” she said. “You’re the ones who have to say goodbye to family and friends on so many occasions. You’re the one who have to change schools all the time and still manage somehow to make decent grades. Therefore, on behalf of Child and Youth Services, we honor and appreciate you for being resilient, resolute and relentless in this changing world.”
The livestream also included youths from the Battle Drive Child Development Center reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and Yorktown CDC kids singing “America the Beautiful.” Fort Lee Family Member Isaiah Polingo, age 17, read the MOMC proclamation signed by Lt. Gen. Douglas Gabram, commanding general of Installation Management Command.
As noted by Watson and others during the program, numerous activities are planned at Fort Lee to shine the spotlight on military kids. A highlight is the Guiness World Record attempt for the longest virtual soccer kick on April 6, 4-7 p.m. Eligible participants include military community youth ages 3-18, their parents and families, CYS staff and Family Child Care providers. A video with important additional details – and the calendar of other MOMC events – is available at www.facebook.com/FortLeeCYSS.
Other organizations on post are hosting MOMC events of their own. The Defense Commissary Agency has launched a coloring contest for ages 11 and under. Entries will only be accepted from military families. There is a limit of one submission per child. Templates can be downloaded at www.commissaries.com/savings-center/coloring-contest. Completed artwork must be turned at the Customer Service Office by the end of the month. Nine winners will be selected, and their artwork will be printed on reusable grocery bags that will be sold in stores next year.
The Army and Air Force Exchange service is conducting weekly contests with $50 gift card prizes. Materials and details can be obtained from ShopMyExchange.com/momc.
Also underway is the Army MWR “Young Lives, BIG Stories!” Contest. Military youths age 3 and up to 12th grade may enter. Grand prizes – computer tablets, iPads or an Xbox game system – are awarded in six age categories. Entries must be submitted by April 30. For additional details, visit www.armymwr.com/programs-and-services/cys/month-military-child/young-lives-big-stories.