In 1986, when Secretary of Defense Caspar W. Weinberger designated each April as “The Month of the Military Child,” could he have imagined how relevant his vision would still be today? In 1986, many people assumed military kids were dealing with the same challenges, successes, and disappointments that any other kid might encounter. They were. But boy did we find out there was so much more to being a military kid!
Today we kick off the official celebration of our military kids – for their accomplishments and resilience. We recognize that some kids are dealing with struggles that neither Secretary Weinberger nor any of us could have imagined. The global conflicts since 9/11 have forever changed our lives. In the early days of conflict and in response to parents asking for help, the National Military Family Association launched our Operation Purple® summer camp program to help military kids cope with the stress they were experiencing. Stress from their dad or mom being in a war zone, stress from the ever-present media coverage of combat, stress related to the separation from a loved one, and stress from feeling alone.
This summer marks the tenth year of Operation Purple camp. Nearly 47,000 military children from around the world have had the chance to meet other kids at a place where they can just be kids, and celebrate being in a military family. At camp, military kids create a “Wall of Honor” to showcase the pride they feel toward their special family member who is serving. Kids raise their hands to share “top ten things” about being a military child or being at camp and have the chance to talk with each other about what bothers them and what makes them tick.
All of these activities are integrated into the well-known camp stuff like rock climbing, swimming, hiking, campfires, you name it. Operation Purple camp gives military children, who are unique yet the same, an opportunity to connect.
Ten years have passed and we never expected to be in this market for this long. Thanks to past generosity from Sears, Roebuck and Company, the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, TriWest Healthcare Alliance, the Sierra Club Foundation, Goldman Sachs Gives, and countless individual donors, we have been able to serve our military kids. And while we didn’t expect to host camps for as long as we have, we know now is not the time to leave. Our kids are too important to our future – for all of us.
As we celebrate our military children this April, our work continues. We want this month to not only acknowledge how strong military kids are, but to also focus on supporting them as they grow up in the military community. Thank you, Secretary Weinberger, for bringing this awareness through the proclamation so many years ago. Now it is up to all of us to make sure we keep our military kids safe, loved, and celebrated – not only in April but through the entire year!
We want to celebrate by featuring YOUR military kid! Throughout April on our Facebook page and website, we will post videos, photos, and quotes from military kids around the country. Submit yours today!
On behalf of the National Military Family Association, we thank you and your children for their service and sacrifice. Together we’re stronger.
Posted by Theresa Buchanan, Youth Initiatives Director at the National Military Family Association