By Kevin Stabinsky, USAG Fort McPhersonApril 1, 2011
FORT MCPHERSON, Ga., April 1, 2011 -- During April, the U.S. Army will celebrate its youngest members: military children.
Throughout the month, which has been designated as month of the military child, Army garrisons world-wide will honor the children of servicemembers through a variety of ceremonies and special events.
Installation Management Command, or IMCOM, has designated this year's theme "Celebrate Military Children: The Strength of Our Future."
Harriet Holley, Fort McPherson Child Development Center director, said military children are the future because "the military begets military." A huge number of today's military kids will become the future force. That's why we need take care of them."
Even if a small number of military children decide to follow in a parent's footsteps, it would still be a large number of future servicemembers. According to IMCOM, more than 1.7 million children under the age of 18 have at least one parent serving in the armed forces, with more than 900,000 children having had one or both parents deployed multiple times.
While much of the public's perception of the military's sacrifice is on these servicemembers who deploy, Holley said military families, especially the children, also have huge sacrifices to endure, which is why the military needs to acknowledge them.
"They endure so much, not just when parents take off for deployments, but also (when they) go to the field (for training)," Holley said.
Because a Soldier's job never ends, children sometimes have to endure long periods of absence of a parent due to the mission. That is one reason why it is so vital to give them support when one can, Holley said.
"Even if they (the children) don't understand it now, the pictures and words we capture today will tell them in the future that we cared," she said.
To show children the military cares about them, IMCOM guidance states installations of all services will honor military children by providing a month packed with activities -- arts and crafts shows, picnics, fishing derbies, carnivals, parades, block parties and other activities -- to acknowledge the unique contributions they make.
On Fort McPherson, Holley said the Child Development Center will have each of its classrooms decorated with a specific theme. Based on the age of the children in the classrooms, teachers and caretakers will tailor different activities appropriate for those age groups, Holley said.
For a finale, Fort McPherson will host a parade April 27. The parade will feature children marching along the streets in costumes, supported by several groups including the Directorate of Emergency Services and the Army Ground Forces Band, Holley said.
Following the parade, the Child Development Center will provide lunch and special games for children and their parents, she added.
Though the celebration of military children, which has been held since 1986, is only officially a month long, the Army is doing all it can to support its children year-round. In late January, President Barack Obama unveiled a government plan to strengthen military Family support, including the education and development of military children and expanding child care options.
Servicemembers and their families, Obama said, have done everything the nation has asked of them in this decade of war. Such commitment by the youngest members of the Army community will be highlighted throughout Month of the Military Child, and their accomplishments will be on display for all to appreciate.
First Lady Michelle Obama shared her husband's commitment.
"It is our sacred responsibility to stand by our military children, just as they and their families stand by us," she said.