Tag Archives: Month of the Military Child

Just Passing Through: Military Kids Kick Things Up a Notch

My daughter decided to play soccer this spring and is one of only a few 10 year olds on her Under-12 soccer team. It’s not an installation-sponsored, select, or travel team, but simply part of our county’s recreational league. It’s a six week long season, with practice several nights a week, standard issue jerseys, and local teenagers refereeing the games. Her team has practiced regularly and intensely. My girl has worked hard; she listens, follows coaches’ directives, and has conditioned her little heart out.

Despite her efforts, at her first match she sat the bench for nearly all of the first and second halves. After the game ended in a tie, the team huddled while the parents waited at the other end of the field. My daughter walked toward us dejectedly, fighting back tears and a quiver in her lips. I knew it would be best to wait until we were back to our vehicle to ask her about the game.

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When the dam broke, I learned she was not only very disappointed about her minimal playing time, she was also upset because her coach had yelled at the team about their lack-luster performance. She took his critical remarks to heart and personalized his punitive declarations. Clearly, her spirit was crushed.

I’ll admit, I was angry that a rec-league soccer coach had allowed his own competitive nature to take over and that he used this crude approach with a group of pre-teen girls. It also made me mad that he hadn’t given my daughter an opportunity to showcase her potential, despite her skill and hard work.

Half a dozen players on our team have been playing soccer together for five years. The coaches have their favorites, and haven’t been overly open to outsiders, newcomers, or my daughter who, as of now, is only known by her jersey number. Our team feels already solidified among the friendships of the players, with the coaches’ impressions of talent and skill, and among the parents who socialize outside of soccer. As the military family, we are often the outliers.

This team doesn’t yet know of my daughter’s fierce competitive nature, her outstanding work ethic, her kindness and ability to make others around her feel special, or her passion for whatever her hands (or feet, in this case) may touch. How could the team know this? We aren’t permanent residents of this state or community; we don’t have much history or a future here; we are just passing through. My anger after the soccer game seemed justified because I felt somehow, indirectly, my daughter was sitting the bench because of our Army service. Our patriotism was perpetuating her penalty.

I didn’t do a good job of hiding my frustration. I was in mama-bear mode and I wanted to protect my daughter’s heart and shield her from this pain she was experiencing. However, as she grows and matures, I’m doing my best to let her fight her own battles when appropriate. I asked her how she thought she should proceed and handle this dilemma. I was half-expecting her to say she was finished with soccer or hear her ask us to speak to the coach. Nope!

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My 10 year old showed up to her next soccer practice and stood right in front of the huddle ready to listen. She maintained the front spot and led her team on the one mile warm-up run when practice began. She asked the coach to let her scrimmage as an offensive forward instead of the fullback position where she’s been stuck for the past few weeks. She scored a goal using her less-dominant foot.

I observed all of this and I beamed with pride. You see, this supple fire inside of her isn’t something that we, as her parents can take credit for. It’s just part of who she is and how she is choosing to handle the adversity of being the new kid (again) on her team-du-jour. Our frequent relocations are giving her copious experiences to fine-tune this character trait; spring soccer is just another opportunity.

As her mother, there’s a lesson for me in how my 10 year old is rising above her situation; springing back into shape; recovering from her difficulties.

Here are three ways this soccer season serves as a metaphor in the life of a military child:

1. They show up eager to listen and learn.

Our kids are often the “new kid” on the block, at school, or in sports. They know there’s power in just showing up, sticking to the commitment, and having a teachable spirit. Life is one long learning experience. And our attitude can often determine our aptitude.

2. They take the lead when appropriate.

Because of their varied life experiences, many military children are natural leaders. They understand the importance of honesty, empathy, respect, and communication; these qualities are all part and parcel of adapting to frequent relocations, dealing with prolonged absences of family service members, and expressing often heavy emotions. Our kids, whether they realize it or not, are developing a vast toolbox of personal, real-world readiness.

3. They speak up for the change they’d like to see.

Our military kids have a voice. They are witnessing first hand in their parents, people who advocate for the good of our nation; they’ve given their lives to it. Military kids have a unique and powerful perspective they can offer in their spheres of influence. They aren’t afraid to ask for change. It’s natural for a military child to understand a world where things can be modified, reformed, transformed, and turned around. If anyone knows anything about adaptation, it’s a military kid.

Our soccer season has just begun. And while it has gotten off to a bit of a rocky start, I have no doubt it will be a winning season for my big girl! She has the tools in place to kick her own self-esteem into high gear. I’m not worried about her all.

How have you seen your military kids overcome a difficult situation? I’d love to hear from you!

claire-woodPosted by Claire Wood, Army spouse and blogger at Elizabethclairewood.com. She has recently released her faith-based book for military spouses, Mission Ready Marriage, and is stationed at Fort Gordon in Augusta, GA

Where are You From? Hometown: EVERYWHERE!

Growing up as a military kid, I sometimes puzzled over the question “Where are you from?” I never struggled to answer, but maybe that’s because I had a lot of possible answers. And yet, I never envied the kids that had just one answer. I still don’t envy those kids…and here’s why:

My father was a career soldier–first as an Army aviator, and then later with the Corps of Engineers. It was a path that took him, and our family, to places as far and wide as Germany, Virginia, Japan, Iowa, South Korea, Kansas, South Dakota, and Maryland. Along the way, we vacationed in Savannah, Georgia–my parents’ hometown. My folks later explained that they figured that we needed a hometown, too.

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Growing up, South Dakota was the place that we called home the longest. My father taught ROTC at South Dakota Tech, in the small Black Hills town of Rapid City, for three years. I’m sure my siblings would agree that we found ourselves more at home in Rapid City than at any other place, including Savannah. There were awesome winter sports, the place was obsessed with baseball (just like I was), there was a strong sense of community, and the city was genuinely welcoming to outsiders.

Of course, it was all temporary, and our next move was to be to South Korea, a place that I’d never even heard of (hey, I was only seven). My folks sold me on the move, as military parents often do, this time by telling me that bicycles were very cheap in Korea.

My older brother and sister were teenagers, so they weren’t as excited about bikes, and they weren’t excited about leaving their friends, either. As we drove through Wyoming on the way to drop off our car for shipment to Korea, there was no shortage of tears. But things got brighter as we made our way further west, and there was building optimism and excitement as we reached the coast.

We arrived in Seoul in the middle of summer, before school started, so it took a little while to get connected. Our household goods (and my toys) seemed to take a long time to arrive, but I guess time is on a different measure when you are a kid. We all managed to find new friends at our new post, as we always had. And sure enough, I was tooling around Yongsan on my new bike in no time (never mind that we got it at the PX for probably the same price that we would have paid in the states).

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Occasionally, I’m asked if growing up as a military brat was hard, if I missed having a true hometown. I respond that “hard” isn’t the word I would choose. Looking back, it was an incredible opportunity, and I experienced things that have changed me forever, and for the better. In just a single two-year slice of time in Korea, I became familiar enough with a new language to pick a soccer team with kids that spoke no English (kids just like me, I learned, except from a different country), I bargained with local shopkeepers over important things like chewing gum and yo-yos, I took field trips to 1,500-year-old temples, and I watched hundreds of local children sneak onto post for the promise of free Halloween candy (security was a little bit different in those days).

It wasn’t perfect, of course, and moving was never what us kids wanted at the time. But we tried to make the most of each assignment, learning to ice skate in South Dakota, touring castles in Europe, even speaking a little Japanese along the way (ok, very little, maybe just a skoshi). And we made new friends at each stop, some of which we are still in touch with (and without the benefit of social media back in the day).

My dad’s next assignment after Korea was Fort Meade, Maryland. On the way, we set it up so that we could pass back through our former hometown of Rapid City. During our visit, I asked my parents “Why are my old friends all still here? Shouldn’t they have been sent to live somewhere else like we were?” When they explained that not everybody has to move every few years, I thought, “Wow, they are missing out.”

Are you a military kid? What do you remember most fondly about growing up?

courtPosted by Court Ogilvie, Chief Operating Officer

Miss Northern Idaho Brings Attention to Military Kids

Lucy Maud Montgomery had the right perception when she wrote about military families in her novel, Rilla of Ingleside: “Our sacrifice is greater than his…our boys give only themselves. We give them.”

America has done a significant job in promoting our servicemen and women, with national holidays like Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day. However, how many people would know what month is the Month of the Military Child (it’s this month!)? How many people take the time to consider the accomplishments and struggles of military children?

Unfortunately, many Americans do not realize the sacrifices of military “brats” are insurmountable compared to the daily lives of their peers.

My purpose in my platform within the Miss Northern Idaho, Miss Idaho, and the Miss America organizations is to raise awareness of the challenges and blessings that come from being a military child.

Because of my platform, military children will know that they are valued, not only for their sacrifice, but also for who they are as a person. Growing up a military brat myself, I am aware of what it feels like to have a parent deployed, to move a number of times, and to feel alone and abnormal because no one understands what it’s like to have the experience of being a military child. I am also aware of the advantage of knowing people in every corner of the globe, to be diverse, to be adaptable, and to be independent.

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I have had much involvement with Operation Homefront, which assists military families financially, because of their Military Child of the Year award. I also have involvement with the National Military Family Association because my family was the Coast Guard Family of the Year in 2010. Both of these organizations salute military children, and using my involvement with these programs, Miss North Idaho will be able to educate the public about the many sacrifices and accomplishments of local military children.

Military children are by no means ‘normal;’ oftentimes they are more mature than their peers – stronger emotionally, and better at acclimating.

I think the main issue in not appreciating military children is simply ignorance. People just don’t think about the homefront as much as they do about those on the front lines. My purpose is not to take away from our amazing soldiers, but to show the civilians what goes on behind the scenes in the military lifestyle. Everyone has seen videos of emotional reunions of soldiers and their families, but it is much less common to see a video of a family packing up their home to move for the fifth time in 3 years, or to see a child kissing a picture good night because their parent is overseas.

With the title of Miss Northern Idaho, I’d like to highlight our military brats for their sacrifices, but much more so for their accomplishments. Even though I changed schools so many times, I was always able to keep excellent grades and I know many others who were able to do the same. That’s not an easy feat, especially when different schools and states have differing curriculum.

“Experts say that military children are well-rounded, culturally aware, tolerant, and extremely resilient. Military children have learned from an early age that home is where their hearts are, that a good friend can be found in every corner of the world, and that education doesn’t only come from school. They live history. They learn that to survive means to adapt, that the door that closes one chapter of their life opens up to a new and exciting adventure full of new friends and new experiences.”

These are just a few examples of how special military children are. Many military brats are also exceptional volunteers, outstanding citizens, and are passionate for their country. They make their families and nation proud, and deserve to be recognized!

Do you know and awesome military kid? Tell us about them by leaving a comment!

Posted by Olivia Kennedy, military child and Miss Northern Idaho

Military Brat: A True Term of Endearment!

Merriam Webster defines the word ‘brat’ as:

brat
noun | \’brat;\
1 a: CHILD; specifically: an ill-mannered annoying child <a spoiled brat>

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The word brat, alone, is not considered a compliment in general speech, but put the word military in front of it, and you get the most loving term of endearment that I, myself, would ever want to be called.

I grew up an Army brat. My dad served 30 years from 1972-2002. I spent 22 of those years experiencing military life and watching him serve his country.  Through his service, I grew into a world traveler with a love for adventure. I developed a proud admiration for my country and anyone in a military uniform, and I developed a sense of adaptability and a go-with-the-flow nature that has kept me sane throughout my adult years.

As proud as I am of my experiences, I know a military childhood is not without its downsides. Moving every couple of years is hard work for a kid. I blame my ever-present restlessness as an adult on the military moves from my childhood. Yet, some of my fondest memories take place among a house full of brown moving boxes, with moving men and their moving trucks as background scenery. I remember very clearly the year my brother made me pee my pants from laughing so hard at the escapades he created with my super hero cabbage patch doll and the towering box buildings she couldn’t quite leap with a single bound.  Not really Comedy Central material, but, man, it was the everything to a seven year old who was about to have her world turned upside down, again. I imagine, though, that the memory remains so vivid to this day because of the ruckus that followed once my mom realized what happened. Now a parent myself, I can understand how unexpected soiled clothing from a seven year old during a move could damper the mood.

I have four Army brats of my own, and I can see through their little eyes, now more than ever, how much our military kids serve our country, too. Mine are still young, and the few moves we’ve experienced probably won’t affect them much in the long run. The stability we’ve been able to experience, however, has been offset by their dad’s military travel. Our oldest–who will be nine this year–has been through two deployments and countless TDYs. When he was younger, it didn’t occur to me how much he was processing from military life. But when he was five, I began to notice his anxiety around airports. He was always with me when we dropped dad off, or picked him up, and one day as we headed to the San Antonio airport for a drop off, I could see him start to tear up in the back seat before we even turned in for departures. He never did cry, just got a little watery-eyed as he sat very somberly in the back seat. We didn’t make a big production of dad’s comings and goings, as to not let on that he would be away for a while, but it was obvious how unsuccessful we were in our attempts to shield him from his dad’s absence. He was very capable of putting two-and-two together, and at five, he could already recognize an airport from a distance.  Later that year, as we traveled to the airport to pick someone up, he very eagerly asked who was coming. I don’t remember now who exactly it was, but I will always remember the disappointment on his face when the answer wasn’t dad.

Despite the absences and missed moments that pepper our memories, I don’t see my kids’ lives as scarred or sad. I don’t pity them or wish for different circumstances. Instead, I admire them for their strength and unconditional love for their soldier and own personal hero: their dad.

I love that they know when dad is gone it means he is working hard to take care of them and others around them. It also means when he comes home, they will spend days riding bikes, playing together in the front yard, watching movies, and taking rides in his truck just for the fun of it. That’s what they look forward to and what keeps them going. But in the meantime, while he’s away and the kids have questions and want to know what dad is doing, I love to sit down with them and put on the movie The Avengers, and say “That’s what daddy’s doing!”

I know his job isn’t nearly that glamorous or heroic, but to our kids, he is nothing less than a super hero, so that’s the best way I can imagine explaining it to them.  I’ll make sure they will forever be our proud military brats.

If you asked me, I’d define brat this way:

military brat
Noun | \ ‘military brat’
1 a: CHILD; specifically: a child serving our country with strength, dignity an love as his or her parent(s) fight for our nation’s security domestically and abroad.

What do you love about your military brat?

Posted by Jenni Miller, Army spouse, photographer and blogger at Jenn Elisabeth Photography

PURPLE UP and High Five an Awesome Military Kid!

It’s the Month of the Military Child and we’ve been celebrating and honoring these special kids and the sacrifices they make while their parent serves in the military. Over on our Facebook page, we’re telling the real story about #BratLife, and what military life is really like for kids.

Here are some startling realities:

One in four military kids struggle with depression.

63% of military child abuse cases are neglect cases.

Health insurance for military kids is modeled after the needs of elderly patients. (What?!)

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Not only that, military kids have a tough time being seen at Military Treatment Facilities because their doctors are often too busy, and appointments are few and far between.

At NMFA, we rally around these amazing kids and love to celebrate the awesome things about them. Especially today. It’s PURPLE UP Day! Around the world, people are joining together to sport their best purple outfits in celebration of our nation’s resilient, remarkable, and rad military kids.

What’s so cool about military kids?

On average, most will move every 3 years…good thing they make friends easily!

They’ve mastered the art of flexibility and adapt to change better than most.

They know happiness doesn’t have one address.

Military kids will say goodbye to more significant people in their lives by age 18 than most people do in a lifetime.

Military kids really do serve, too.

But somehow, these little heroes turn out to be some of the most incredible people, some even growing up to appreciate their experience as a military kid, others go on to follow their parent’s footsteps and join the military.

Today, we ask you to join us and wear purple – the color that represents of all the military branches – and honor the awesome military kids we love! If you’re wearing purple today, snap a selfie and tag NMFA in it!

What’s your favorite thing about military kids? Tell us in the comments!

shannonPosted by Shannon Prentice, Content Development Manager

Month of the Military Kid FREE Printable Activities!

It’s officially the Month of the Military Child, and while we hope your community has some fun activities planned, we wanted to provide some additional resources for you to make this a special month for the military kids in your life.

These printables were designed for kids at our Operation Purple® camps. What’s Operation Purple Camp, you ask? It’s a completely free camp for military kids designed to help them connect with other children who understand the unique challenges military children face. We want them to feel comfortable connecting with their peers and taking about their experience, and these tools help them open up with each other and our camp staff.

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You can use these printables at home with your children, with your church group, scouts, youth center, or school groups. Anywhere where you can find military children!

Military Kid Comic Strips

Some kids may not want to talk about their experience, and most probably don’t want to write an essay about them, either. These worksheets take the pressure off and allow kids to draw and express their experience in pictures instead of words. When they are finished, you can display their work (with their permission) or use it as a jumping off point to discuss their experience.

Military Kid Mad Libs

This light-hearted activity is a good way to help kids open up about their moving experiences. Come up with the word list as a group, and then read the story aloud. Ask the children to tell their own moving stories. Did they have an easy time making friends? Are they homesick, or did they get settled right in?

Military Kid Feelings Search

Sometimes military kids don’t really want to sit down to talk about their feelings. No big deal! This word search is a quiet activity and includes many different feelings, positive and negative. After the kids complete this activity, you can ask them, what feelings were not on the list? Which words would they use to describe military life, or their parents deployment, or the idea of moving? Are they happy or excited? Are they nervous, sad, or mad?

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Military Kid Ice Breaker Bingo

If you have a large group of military kids to work with, this activity is a wonderful ice breaker. Simply print off one game board per child, find a cool prize for them, and set them free to chat with each other. If they can find a kid who matches the description in the game box, they have their new friends autograph the square. The first child to get a BINGO can get a prize! You could have a second prize for the first child to get a “Blackout” on their game board, too! Ideally, when you are done playing, all the children will have had a chance to talk to each other and learn something new.

Download these awesome FREE printable activities for the military kid in your life! Be sure to take pictures and tag us on social media if you try them out!

HeatherPosted by Heather Aliano, Social Media Manager

17 Ways to Celebrate the Month of the Military Child!

When we think of colors that might represent military kids, we usually think of the colors like red, white and blue…maybe throw in a little green camo for contrast, right?

However, the color that best represents the life of the military child is PURPLE!  Why the color purple? It’s the color that’s an intricate part of celebrating the month of April – the Month of the Military Child.

In 1986, April was designated Month of the Military Child by Casper Weinberger to recognize and thank children from military families for the sacrifices they make living the military lifestyle. Purple Up is the campaign that propels activities throughout the Month of the Military Child to honor, acknowledge, and support military connected kids in our schools and communities.

A military connected kid is a child or adolescent with a close family member serving in any branch of the United States Armed Forces, and any status, Active Duty, Reserve, or National Guard. Military connected youth face unique circumstances living the military lifestyle, which can be challenging, or opportunities for growth.

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Celebrating our little warriors doesn’t just happen in our schools. As parents and educators, we need to put a little ingenuity and elbow grease behind a few strategies and activities. As parents, we need to solicit support from principals, teachers and PTO/PTA groups to help bring awareness to our little warriors and their struggles. It’s an easy sell, and the positive attitude you’ll bring to school will last long after you’ve moved, hopefully keeping the tradition going.

The Month of Military Child is celebrated in hundreds of schools across the country and overseas. Bring your child’s school into the know and create a visual sea of purple! Help bring awareness to the unique life we live to teachers, principals, and their peers.

Below are 17 fantastic ways to show support in your school for the military families in your elementary school community. They’re low cost, practical, and creative ways to celebrate in the classroom, hallways and in lunchroom at your school.

  1. Kick off the Month of the Military Child with a breakfast, or lunch for Military Connected Youth in the school. Include their parents or other family members associated with the military. Don’t forget to invite staff who were once military kids, too, or who may have a close family member serving our country.
  2. Dress-up throughout the month of April. April 15th is the official PURPLE UP day! It’s always fun to see a school full of smiling faces wearing purple. Another idea is to identify one day each week in April to highlight military families. Ideas include: favorite service logo day, patriotic day, Purple day, etc.
  3. Highlight April as Month of the Military Child on the school’s marquee, and in staff and parent newsletters.
  4. Have a daily or weekly announcement with military-connected student facts. Start with the national facts and move into school facts. For great facts on military connect kids, visit Families on the Home front.
  5. Throughout the month, ask military connected kids or family members to do the announcements, or share an interesting fact about their life as a military child on the morning news show.
  6. Decorate display cases and bulletin boards throughout April with military focused memorabilia, or items brought by military kids reflecting their experiences (where they have live or traveled, family members’ service memorabilia, parts of a uniform, patches, coins, models of planes etc.)
  7. Create a world map and pinpoint where students and staff have lived because of their military lifestyle. This is a fantastic way to connect military kids with their peers. It’s total conversation starter when their peers say to them, “Wow! You lived in Japan?”
  8. Decorate the school in flags, purple, and posters! Have a group of kids design posters thanking their families for their service. Have military kids make posters reflecting their experiences. Decorate with purple balloons. Have staff and students wear purple ribbons or carnations on the designated Purple UP day!4-4 MilKid PINTEREST Rd&Bl
  9. Adopt a deployed service member or unit. Create care packages for deployed troops. As a service project collect items from a class, grade, school group, or whole school. Packages can be sent to a student’s family member or another unit identified through the school or community. Collect items from April 4-22, then take the week of April 25 the to pack up and ship. Don’t forget notes, card, and pictures. For ideas of what to send, contact a family member, local installation, or Red Cross. Most school counselors should know if there are families in your school whose service members is deployed. Ask them to help celebrate their family.
  10. Attempt a LIVE SKYPE session with a deployed service family member in the classroom or at an assembly. With a little technical help and decent time zone, this would be a great experience to for military kids to show how they talk to their parent – when they can.
  11. Start a Buddy Program at your school for ALL new kids that transfer in. It’s great way to take the sting out of being the new kid and create support within the school for military connected kids and other new students. This is a great program to be started by Student Council or PTA/PTO. It takes little effort, just a small welcome packet, a meeting once a month and friendly face.
  12. Ask a military member (a parent or sibling of someone in the class) to be a guest speaker and share their perspective on life in the military, as well as their profession.
  13. Create a Hero Wall to honor those in public service, with a bulletin board or posters pinned up about heroes in a child’s life. It could be a family member or family friend currently serving, or a veteran who served (living or dead). It could also be someone who does good in a community – firefighters, policemen, first responders, or religious figures. Keep the idea that kids can connect and share about who they think a hero is – a hero is defined in many different ways. Keep the conversation going about sacrifice and public service!
  14. Create a Time Zone Wall with a series of clocks on a wall identifying different time zones from around the world, with a focus on where a deployed family may be, where a military child has lived in the past, or where a child might be moving to.
  15. Story time using books about military kids’ experience, the military lifestyle, being the new kid in school, or appreciating differences in one another.
  16. Show-n-Tell! Have students bring in something military-related. Examples might be memorabilia from an installation or service branch, favorite airplane, book, military character, items or pictures from prior living locations, pictures or anything related to being a milkid!
  17. Write letters or draw pictures and send to deployed family members!

What ways are you planning to celebrate the military kids in your life? Leave a comment and share it with us!

Posted by Stacy Huisman, National Military Family Association Volunteer and Managing Director for Families on the Home Front