FORT KNOX, Ky. – Military children grow up in a world where they must constantly adapt to new environments and manage changes.
Orders come down every few years and their parents have to pack up and move.
“It’s kind of a resilient culture,” said Child & Youth Services coordinator Rayceil Oggs.
She and all those who work regularly with military children are often in awe of how much children excel in the face of stress. Case in point: the COVID-19 pandemic — “The children just adjusted.”
Program operations specialist Patricia Harden said she saw how the procedural lifestyle with which the military kids were accustomed became a factor in how they handled all the protective mandates.
“They’re just so used to that routine that for them to have something added in was viewed as, ‘This is just something we’re doing,” said Harden; “’just another adventure.’”
Having experienced so much uncertainty throughout their lives, Harden said military children were uniquely equipped with the ability to cope with everything the pandemic threw at them.
“It just showed all their strengths,” said Harden; “all their flexibility.”
Brenda Weatherington, Fort Knox Schools liaison officer, said the children’s ever-changing way of life also allowed them to go into the pandemic with a more constructive viewpoint.
“They just see it as change. They don’t see it as something negative or detrimental,” said Weatherington. “Change is just par for the course with them.”
The past year not only provided military children with the means to apply the skills they’ve developed, said Oggs, the stop movement order, remote education and telework also gave them the one thing they sometimes miss out on most: time with their Soldier parents.
“It was just a good time for Families to bond together,” said Oggs.
She noted how important it is to recognize the extraordinary types of struggles they face, especially this month every year.
The Army releases a Month of the Military Child proclamation each April that pays tribute to military youth and shines light on their capabilities. This year’s statement reads, “It is important to honor and celebrate our military’s youth heroes for their service, commitment, and sacrifice.”
Weatherington said one of their sacrifices came in the form of time spent with extended family members, many of whom could only be visited sparingly even before COVID travel restrictions were in place. She witnessed how it affected military children compared to their civilian counterparts.
“Family structure [for civilian children] is a little bit different because they have grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, uncles: everybody right there as a family unit ready to support that child,” said Weatherington. “Whereas, military children do not.”
Weatherington and her colleagues said they observed how the children channeled their adaptability and held on to the Family members they did have.
“That’s why the stop movement was good,” said Weatherington. “Everybody came together within the military community.”
She said these are among several reasons why the dandelion was the flower selected to symbolize military kids.
“That flower was truly chosen to represent our children because it’s perfect,” said Weatherington. “Dandelions grow anywhere. They thrive anywhere.”
Deployments, new locations, new schools, a whole new life every few years, and now a pandemic -- military children have faced them all, thriving every step of the way.