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1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Col. Robert J. Holcombe, Fort Rucker garrison commander, and Command Sgt. Maj. Raymond P. Quitugua Jr., garrison command sergeant major, sign the Fort Rucker Child Abuse Prevention Month proclamation at Parker Elementary School April 14. (Photo Credit: Photo by Jim Hughes) VIEW ORIGINAL
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2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – The Parker Elementary School Patriots band plays at the Child Abuse Prevention Month proclamation signing. (Photo Credit: Photo by Jim Hughes) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- The Fort Rucker garrison commander and command sergeant major reaffirmed the post’s commitment to preventing child abuse when they signed its Child Abuse Prevention Month Proclamation April 14 at Parker Elementary School.

Col. Robert J. Holcombe and Command Sgt. Maj. Raymond P. Quitugua Jr. put their signatures on the document after several musical performances by the school’s Patriots Band.

Joy McCormick, Army Community Service Family Advocacy Program social worker, read the proclamation to gathered students and parents before the signing.

“Children are the future of our nation,” she read. “It is our job to ensure that they grow up with a strong support system. Our MilKids are Priority 1. The aim of CAPM is to raise awareness of both the Department of Defense’s and FAP’s commitment to keeping military children safe through the prevention of abuse and neglect by highlighting the power of a safe, caring adult in the life of a child.

“Child abuse and neglect prevention is not a one-month assignment – it goes on every day of every year,” she continued. “Every caring adult in the community plays a role in supporting the resilience of military children, including those impacted by trauma, abuse or neglect. Regardless of your role in the life of a MilKid, pledge to be a positive influence and help him or her through the harder days by learning what you can do to keep them growing safe and strong.”

Holcombe spoke to the audience, as well, starting by congratulating the young musicians. “Good job Patriots!”

Child abuse is unacceptable anywhere it happens, he said, “but the fact that we celebrate Child Abuse Prevention Month and Month of the Military Child in the same month, that’s not by accident.

“Our military kids are special. We in the military are used to moving from place to place, and we signed up for that and said send me wherever you need me to go – I’m happy to serve,” Holcombe said. “But our family members didn’t necessarily agree to that. Certainly, children born into the military never got a vote as to where they were going to move – from place to place, from school to school – having to make new friends every time. That puts a tremendous strain on our kids, and that’s why our military kids are so special.

“When you talk about child abuse and neglect, it doesn’t matter if you’re in the military or not, but because we have that added stress placed on our military families, that presents an environment where it’s possibly an increased potential for abuse and neglect,” he said, adding that prevention is only half of it.

“We absolutely have to prevent it, but we also have to ensure that our kids are resilient so that they can weather the storms that life brings and they can continue to grow up to be strong adults,” Holcombe said.

The colonel added that the Army has gone to great lengths to ensure its individual communities have the resources they need to battle abuse and neglect.

“One of the things I’m sure you’ve heard many times from the Army does is the People First focus on management,” he continued. “Sometimes I see military members roll their eyes when the commissary is out of certain foods, or the hours of the pool get cut, and they say, ‘Yeah, right, people first – they say it but don’t mean it!’

“I would say, look at the FAP program. Look at the fact that we start helping families from Day 1 with our new parent support program – helping young couples who are not sure where to start, not sure how to do this – the FAP team helps take care of our young families and their newborns. And that team continues through all of the ages of childhood, and also helps people with their marriages – they’re there to help our families where it matters, where it counts.

“We have an amazing team here,” he added. “I would say that if you run into anyone who has questions or are who struggling, send them to FAP. You don’t have to wait until something goes wrong. FAP is there to help with that at that prevention piece – they’re there to help all along the way.”

The colonel also shared that he and his siblings also all grew up as “military brats.”

“We were all stronger for it, and you all will be, too,” he said. “We recognize how difficult it is to grow up in the military – it really is a unique way to grow up. We thank servicemembers for what they do for our nation and for their service, but you guys are an important part of that – we couldn’t do what we do without the support from our children and our families. I want to tell you all how proud we are of all of you – you probably don’t hear it enough.”

The Directorate of Family, and Morale, Welfare and Recreation is hosting events throughout the month to help raise awareness on child abuse prevention. For more information, visit https://rucker.armymwr.com/, or call the family advocacy program at 255-3898 or the new parent support program at 255-9647.