REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala.--Military children are special. And every year at this time, the military services make sure they know it.

April is the Month of the Military Child. Kickoff parades will be held Friday at both child development centers. The Mills Road center will have its ribbon-cutting event at 9 a.m., followed by the Goss Road center's event at 10. Garrison commander Col. John Hamilton will deliver remarks.

"The Stars of Today are the Leaders of Tomorrow" is this year's theme.

"My husband just retired (as an Army master sergeant)," Linda Smith, assistant director of the Goss Road center, said. "To me, having a Month of the Military Child is just letting the children know they're appreciated and it's in support of their parents."

The Goss Road center has 164 children, including 77 military youngsters. Deborah Nickles is the director.

"I think it's important to celebrate children no matter what," assistant director Diane Engbretson said. "These are going to be our future Soldiers and our future leaders in the community. So it's important that we recognize that these children are going to grow up and let them know they're going to be leading us one day.

"I think all children are special," Engbretson said. "I just think military children have sometimes added stress. Sometimes other children don't understand what it is to be deployed."

Said Smith, who has three grown children, "The (parent) deploying, the constant moving, the leaving of friends that they've met. It's a lot they have to endure but they seem to always bounce back."

The Mills Road center, which opened in November, has 140 children including 43 with military parents.

"We got possession of the building in October but we didn't actually open until November," Mills Road center director Karen Luckie said.

Month of the Military Child events are scheduled throughout April at both centers. "A lot of the things are going to be the same, just different days," Luckie said.

The Goss Road center's calendar includes Crazy Sock Day on April 4, Hat Day on April 5, Sunglasses Day on April 6, Open House from 4:30-5:30 p.m. April 7, Pajama Day on April 8, Bubble Day on April 11, Soldier Story Day (where military parents are asked to read to the children) on April 12 at 10 a.m., Clothes Inside Out Day on April 13, Outside Art Gallery on April 14, Olympic Day on April 15 at 10 a.m., Mismatch Day on April 18, Team Jersey Day on April 19, Outdoor Music Day on April 20, Stuffed Animal Day on April 21, Wear Your Month of the Military Child T-shirt on April 22, Easter Egg Hunt on April 23 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the sports field off Goss Road, Share a Book Day on April 25, Red White and Blue Day on April 26, Ice Cream Social on April 27, Tunnel Crawl on April 28, and Western Day on April 29.

For more information, call the Goss Road center at 955-0116 or the Mills Road center at 842-5862.