Honoring our military children

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- In 1986, Secretary of Defense Caspar W. Weinberger designated each April as "The Month of the Military Child." The purpose of the month is to reach out and recognize the contributions that military children make as they support their parent, or parents, in service to our country. Accordingly, at military installations serving all branches of service, each April is filled with special days and events to honor the children of military members.

Most of us recognize that our children serve too, but it's easy to take it for granted or forget to consider their perspective. Military children face a host of challenges that aren't normal for most American children. They make personal sacrifices daily. Deployments, frequent PCS moves, long duty hours, and TDYs chip away at the time service members get to spend with their children. Recognizing them is about quality because quantity isn't always an option. We have moved our family numerous times and as our two boys have grown, they've had increased challenges with each move. They're forced to leave cherished friends behind to start anew at the next duty location. Though technology helps them stay connected, it's no substitute for riding their bikes down the street with a best friend on a summer day.

In 2011, a RAND study commissioned by the National Military Family Association looked into resiliency of military families during and following wartime deployments. Not surprisingly, the study found that the rates of anxiety and emotional and behavioral issues are higher for our children than national averages. Those challenges were often exacerbated by extended parental TDYs and deployments. The RAND study also found that even with these issues that are unique to military families, in most instances, families are healthy and coping appropriately. Members of the military community can help facilitate and maintain healthy coping and resiliency for families by offering and taking part in events during the Month of the Military Child. During the month of April, there are multiple opportunities to celebrate military children both within and outside our gates.

On Peterson AFB, there will be an art auction at the Peterson Child Development Centers. The auction is held each April and this year is sponsored by the Parent Advisory Board. The board is comprised of volunteer parents who provide input on activity programming in the Child and Youth programs. These volunteers meet the second Tuesday of each month at the main child development center and they're a vital link between caregivers and families. If you haven't heard of them or never considered participating, April may be the perfect time to attend a meeting.

The Boys and Girls Club of America partnered with the U.S. Armed Forces in 1991 to help military children and that partnership has grown stronger every year. The Peterson RP Lee Youth Center teams with the BGCA to provide programs and activities specific to the military youth. Our youth center staff obtains significant program funding support through BGCA grants every year. In 2012 alone, the BGCA served more than 18,000 military youth.

In Colorado Springs, the Southeast Armed Forces YMCA has a goal in 2014 to "support family stability with an emphasis on the changing dynamic of families in the military community." In support of this goal, the organization is offering a Military Appreciation Day April 25. They also offer a variety of camps and events that focus on teaching and maintaining resiliency of military children throughout the year.

More than two decades ago, long before 9/11 and before many Airmen were born, the Secretary of Defense recognized the importance of the military family when he proclaimed April as the Month of the Military Child. Take the time throughout the year, but especially in the month of April, to recognize military children and families for what they contribute to readiness. Recognize their accomplishments, their support, and their sacrifices to our nation by volunteering, taking part in a father daughter dance, or purchasing a young child's artwork. These simple acts let children know how important they are to the Air Force and that their service matters too.