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Celebrating our military children

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- In 1986, the month of April was designated as the Month of the Military Child - and for good reason - being a military child is not easy.

About half of military children have had a parent deploy. When you add in the children who have had dual military parents, where one parent has been assigned separately from the family on occasion, that number grows. Thank goodness for Skype and Facetime!

I had the pleasure of helping kick-off Buckley's Month of the Military Child at the A-Basin Child Development Center. In the spirit of the celebration, I brought my military children to the opening ceremony. They are third generation military children and it was wonderful to have them there to help celebrate their fellow military children.

Growing up in a military family is not easy. My son Elliott will agree wholeheartedly that going from place to place and leaving old friends is not fun. The children have to reestablish themselves on sports teams, get to know new schools and teachers, move into a new house or apartment, and make new friends. None of that is easy.

The dandelion has been named the official flower of the military brat because like dandelions, our military children have special powers. They are resilient and magically grow wherever they drift even if it isn't for long. They help make every place we go a home. They embrace the special things about wherever it is they go, whether that be Japan, Germany, Virginia, or Colorado. Some kids never have the opportunity to see the Rocky Mountains, Mount Fuji or the White House. Some kids never get a chance to eat barbeque in Texas and gumbo in Louisiana.  Some kids don't get to feel the pride our children feel in our service, or the joy they feel when we come home. I don't think anyone would argue that after return from a deployment, a long TDY, or even a rough day at work, some arms around your neck and a kiss on the cheek aren't magically therapeutic.

How do they do it? With a lot of help - from us as parents in recognizing their service and helping them see the adventure in the travel, and from child care providers who help give them a soft place to land, who understand the challenges they face, and who help enable their parent's service by nurturing each military child's strength of character.  Equally important, is the support our children receive from the other military children whether it is a sibling or a fellow military child who has walked in their shoes and can relate to the joys and sacrifices they share as our military children. 

Military children make significant contributions for the country - they enhance our service, taking care of themselves and each other so we can take care of the mission.  They keep us grounded so we don't lose focus on the importance of family.  It is wonderful that we take an opportunity to celebrate them and acknowledge how proud we are of their service!  Although we celebrate the military child during the month of April, we should embrace them and celebrate them throughout the year.

There are times when mission dictates our being away from our children on special days - birthdays, holidays, recitals, first steps, and in some cases, even births, so when you have the opportunity to spend that quality time-whether it be making art that you can treasure for years to come, by singing songs together, or reading a book - celebrate your children and celebrate the caregivers who give them a safe place to grow and learn.
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