Every April, the Department of Defense and the military community recognize April as the Month of the Military Child. It is part of a campaign designed to encourage awareness, support and appreciation of military children and the unique challenges they face. Deployments, family separations and frequent moves often mean additional stress for children in those families. Frequently, these youngsters don’t identify publicly as being in part of a military family due to fear of stigma or being treated differently. Consequently, military youth often quietly face these challenges without the support or understanding of those outside the military community.
As part of April’s Month of the Military Child, Idaho National Guard (ING) Family Programs have implemented a campaign to wear purple on Fridays to raise awareness. Purple is a special color because it symbolizes all branches of the military: Army green, Coast Guard blue, Air Force blue, Marine red and Navy blue. Fittingly, ING Family Programs’ doors are open to all military families in Idaho, regardless of military branch.
I have seen the effects that being in a military family have on youths. After volunteering for years with the ING Family Programs’ Youth and Child Services division, I have come away with an appreciation for just how much our Idaho military families have been through amid many deployments and years of war. Their stories run the gamut of every imaginable scenario: PTSD, divorce, injury, even loss of life. Even the most brilliant, life-loving and special kids had some gut-wrenching stories.
A favorite activity I participated in were the camps for military kids that the program hosts twice a year. Every winter and summer, roughly 150 military kids gather at a camp facility for four to five days. In addition to the usual camp activities, there are workshops and activities designed around teaching leadership skills, and how to gain that certain kind of resiliency known today as “grit.”
After chaperoning nine camps in a row as a civilian with no direct military connection, I appreciate what a huge difference it makes to know that others outside the military community understand that it’s not always easy being a military kid. And these kids need each other just as much as they need our compassion and understanding. It’s not uncommon to hear one of the campers declare that she met all of her best friends at camp. It amazed me to see how closely these children form bonds with one another, knowing that they can all relate to what the other is going through. These kids also serve, in their own way.
Let’s show our local military kids that they and their families are appreciated for all that they have given to protect our nation and freedom. Wear purple on Fridays in April as a way to show support and thank military children for their strength and sacrifices.
Angela Nelson, Boise, is a public relations specialist with Mountain America Credit Union and a member of the Idaho Statesman Editorial Board.