In 1986, Defense Secretary Casper Weinberger declared April as the Month of the Military Child in order to recognize, honor, and highlight those who also serve, but did not volunteer - military children. From its inception, the Month of the Military Child has continued to gain traction and remains strong today. The Month consists of celebrations throughout both military and civilian communities and consists of parades, assemblies, and other special events that provide a platform for military children to receive recognition for the sacrifices they endure as a result of their family’s commitment to the service of our Nation. One of the most significant events during the Month is the “Purple Up! For Military Kids” day, a day to paint the town purple in support for our military kids. This year, 2018, Purple Up! Day is Friday, April 13th.
Why purple? Simple…If you mix the colors of all of the services, you will create a shade of purple. Air Force Blue, Army Green, Navy Blue, Marine Corps Red, and Coast Guard Blue!
The Month of the Military Child applies to all branches of service and all components (Active Duty, Reserve Component, and National Guard). This generally translates to about 1.7 million dependent children! The term “dependent” is critical, as it provides the upper age limit for whom the military provides services and resources. The military's definition of a dependent child is “children. Unmarried biological, step-children, and adopted children until age 21 (or 23 if in college). Eligibiity may extend beyond these age limits if he or she is severely disabled.”
Statistics from 2017 showed that the Army is best a producing future Soldiers, claiming over half of the dependent children with just shy of 877K. The Air Force came in second with almost 324K dependent children. The Navy was close behind at 295K. And the Marine Corps made a strong showing with almost 113K dependent children. Coast Guard dependents were not counted in the 1.7 million number because, technically, the Coast Guard is a service of the Department of Homeland Security (exceptions apply).
Now that you know a bit about the history of the Month of the Military Child, I want to take a few minutes to pay my own tribute to these children. My words below are not to diminish the amazing feats and challenges that many other children throughout the world encounter, but instead they are meant to shine a light on the children who’s parent or parents volunteer to fight for our Nation’s freedom. These kids experience many different things throughout their young lives and their experiences can only truly be understood by themselves. Since these children join this lifestyle early in their lives, they do not know much else. Yet, they still recognize some differences between themselves and their civilian peers. Below is a brief list of the anatomy of a military child, my attempt to help you metaphorically understand some of the differences too.
Anatomy of a Military Child
You can tell a military child by her feet: oh, the places they’ve been and oh the places they’ll go. They keep her standing tall no matter the challenge and they are traveled more than her peers. They literally and figuratively keep her grounded, no matter what challenges military life throws her way.
You can tell a military child by his shoes: they are well worn with treads no longer visible. Slippery when conditions are less than favorable yet he still manages to stay upright. Walk a mile in his shoes and you’re bound to feel uncomfortable, off-balance, and stumble a bit. Yet, he always manages to walk with ease.
You can tell a military child by her knees: a little bruised and sometimes scraped, and often pretty rough. Sometimes she feels hurt and pain-stricken because of the struggles she endures, but over time, these wounds heal. Sure, bruises and scratches will come back again, but they will heal just the same. Take a closer look at her knees and you may notice she might also have worn knees because she drops to her knees in prayer or solitude asking for protection or wondering why. Not all military kids are spiritual, but some find great comfort in spiritual communities.
You can tell a military child by his legs: they are strong and flexible, capable of carrying more weight than many of his peers yet pliable enough to remain agile and adaptive when new and unexpected obstacles arise. The load he bears is often heavier, more lopsided, and more intricate than that of his peers, forcing his legs to grow and strengthen at a young age.
You can tell a military child by her guts: the intestinal fortitude and courage she displays is not by accident. It develops over time and each hardship caused by her family’s military service continues to enhance her personal strength. She has the courage to meet new friends. She has the guts to hear hard news and conversations. She has the will to ask tough questions. She has the intuition to know and sense because she’s experienced more at her young age than some will in a lifetime.
You can tell a military child by his heart: he lives for each day. His heart is full of love and grows larger with each friend he makes. The emotions he’s afraid to show also weigh on his heart, making his heart a bit heavier than his peers. He tries to be tough, just like his parents and his country ask of him, but his heart harbors the emotions he’s hesitant to release. His heart is always full.
You can tell a military child by her shoulders: she holds them high but for various reasons. The stress she holds resides in her shoulders, slowing tightening them and raising them more than her peers. Yet she also holds them down and back, standing tall and straight and proud, just like her military-parent taught him. She squares her body to the adversary and stands ready to protect herself and her family members, especially her siblings.
You can tell a military child by his arms: just as his legs are strong, so too are his arms. His legs hold him but his arms hold others. He lifts up himself and his family. He also uses his arms to hold tight those people and things that are also in his heart. He hugs big, he lifts high, and carries more than his own weight.
You can tell a military child by her hands: her hands are a bit tighter than her peers, for she squeezes all she can out of life. Her nails are a bit more jagged, showing she’s tough and not afraid to confront a challenge. Along with her arms and heart, she physically holds friends and family in her hands, yet, when the time comes, she uses those same hands to shake “see you later” to a friend and maybe even render an endearing salute.
You can tell a military child by his words: he speaks in acronyms that many adults do not understand. He uses heavy words like deployment, death, wounded, weapon, and overseas. He may even utter a curse word earlier than his peers. He’s fluent in FaceTime and Skype and care packages. He may even speak a foreign language.
You can tell a military child by her mind: it’s here, where the memories are housed, where the military child is most clearly different from her peers. Here she keeps the memories of the time when daddy was gone for months at a time. When she started another new school. When she couldn’t play soccer because the team was already full when she moved. It’s here where she stores the memories of the best vacation ever - a cross-country road trip associated with her family’s move. Where she remembers the holidays and parties spent with family-like friends in lieu of given family. It’s in her mind where she remembers “that one time” from two duty-stations past but recounts the story like it happened yesterday. Where she knows where she was born but has no recollection of ever living there. It’s here, in her mind, where it all comes together. It makes her who she is. Despite being a military child.
Nay, because she is a military child.
Kari Haravitch, PCD(DONA)