By Cheryl Harrison, Army Community Service MarketingApril 8, 2011
FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas -- In the civilian world, the month of April is usually celebrated by the onset of spring and the Easter holiday. If you happen to live in San Antonio, it's Fiesta time!
But to the military community here, April means much more.
First, April is celebrated as the Month of the Military Child. It's a time to honor and celebrate the children whose parents serve their country. To these children, that means sacrifice and separation from a parent, but also an opportunity to grow and become more resilient than most children.
Military children are very special, since they are also serving their country as they watch moms and dads go off to war for months or a year at a time.
On a much more somber note, April is also Child Abuse Prevention Month. This is a time to remind people of the travesty of abuse to children, not only our own locally, but across the nation.
Military communities across our nation and overseas have come together to celebrate the joy, resiliency and the future our children represent with ceremonies, Family Fun Days and special events.
Fort Sam Houston, Joint Base San Antonio and the 502nd Force Support Squadron are no exception and April is a very busy time for its Families, especially the children.
The Family Advocacy Program held an opening ceremony at the Roadrunner Community Center, April 1, for Child Abuse Prevention Month. Approximately 60 people were present to see a short historical film about the history of the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children.
"It was 1873. Mary-Ellen was 9 years old when a church worker, Etta Wheeler, who had been asked to visit the family, found Mary-Ellen shackled to her bed, grossly malnourished, scarred and badly beaten. Wheeler was so appalled by what she saw that she went to the authorities to report this horrifying child abuse.
"The authorities turned her away. But Wheeler refused to take no for an answer. She petitioned the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Animals were protected, but children were not. Wheeler appealed to the ASPCA that children were members of the animal kingdom, and must therefore be protected.
"It was on these grounds that the ASPCA did finally intervene. Mary-Ellen was removed from her abusive home, placed in foster care, where she thrived. She went on to marry and have two daughters. Mary-Ellen lived to the age of 92.
"Mary-Ellen is considered the very first child abuse case in North America. Her case led to the founding in 1874 of the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children with child protection as its primary mandate."
"This is a great time to be looking back and taking stock to see if we are doing everything we can for our children and our communities," said guest speaker Col. Mary Garr, commander, 502nd Mission Support Group, at the end of the film.
"It is very important to recognize child abuse prevention not just during this month, but throughout the year," Garr said.
Following the reading of the Child Abuse Prevention Month proclamation, Garr reminded people of the festivities to be held in recognition of the two months, and also about the opening of the youth baseball program season, held at Dodd Field.
The "Celebrate our Future" Family Fun Day began early April 2, with Garr tossing out the first pitch to open the youth baseball program.
"The day is all about you - kids, big and small," Garr said. "As your parents are out there defending our nation, putting themselves in harm's way, you are back here keeping up the spirit, keeping them motivated. You are the reason we are fighting for our future and for the way of life we have today."
The umpire's cry of "play ball" followed, as well as games, crafts, music, bouncy castles, cake walks and a visit from the Easter Bunny.