Saturday Event Celebrates Military Child
BY HANNAH SHARPE
The Kiwanis Club of the Sandhills wants to kick off April, the national Month of the Military Child, with a celebration of the area's military families.
The organization will host the "Celebration of the Military Child," an afternoon of festivities at hosted by the Aberdeen Parks and Recreation Department along with the Kiwanis at Aberdeen Lake Park from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, April 2, to honor the area's military children.
"Freedom isn't free; there's a price that's paid," Kiwanis member Charlie Carlton says. "In a lot of instances, I think people miss the fact that the children pay some of that price."
According to the Military Child Education Coalition (MCEC), a nonprofit organization that advocates preserving the quality of education for military students, a military child moves an average of six to nine times between kindergarten and 12th grade.
The Moore County school system has at least 1,499 students who have military connections, and that number is expected to grow with the onset of BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure), which will bring more military families to the area.
The Kiwanis Club plans to work with the MCEC to create a local support system for military families, especially students, who are often forgotten in the dialogue about the impact of war in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Meg Wilkins, a volunteer who helps oversee the Military Connections Club for military students at Crain's Creek Middle School, believes the celebration will help children realize that the community cares about their sacrifice too.
"While they are very resilient, we need to celebrate that," she says. "I think we need to keep in mind the things that they are handling with a great deal of grace. We all [as a community] need to do the best we can to support them and celebrate the fact that they are such resilient and positive young people."
For military families, deployments and a transient lifestyle are the new normal within the longest military conflict in U.S. history.
More than 2 million children in the U.S. are affected by deployments of parents.
Of those children, 160,000 children have at least one parent currently deployed.
Besides worrying about a deployed parent's safety and absence, children must also adapt to the constant changes and transitions around them - new friends, a new school and a new community.
"It's not something that's just a year, or maybe two," Carlton's wife, Suzy, says. "But it's a new normal. This is a rotating pattern that's going to be."
MCEC's "Living in the New Normal" (LINN) is an initiative seeking to foster local support mechanisms for military children, who must face social and academic challenges that result from the wars currently being fought by the U.S. military.
The Kiwanis Military Child Education Committee hopes to bring some of the LINN initiative's efforts to Moore County by working to make educators, counselors and students, along with the broader community, aware of the sacrifices military families make and find means to help military students stay strong and resilient despite so much uncertainty in their lives.
Over the summer, the group will offer workshops for educators to equip them with materials that will help them be more aware of the challenges that military children face when moving to a new school.
Though the Kiwanis Club hopes to establish a lasting sense of awareness for the military community, the focus for Saturday will be about the area's military children.
"We want to recognize the military child on this day and let them know that we know where they're coming from," Charlie Carlton says.
Registration for the event will begin at 11:30 a.m. at Aberdeen Lake Park.
An opening ceremony featuring guest speaker Col. Stephen Sicinski, garrison commander at Fort Bragg, along with other speakers will begin at 12:15 p.m.
Town of Aberdeen Mayor Betsy Mofield will proclaim April 2 Celebration of the Military Child Day.
From 12:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. military families are invited to come enjoy food, games and entertainment provided by the Union Pines High School band ensemble and the Temple Teens along with a puppet show.
At 2 p.m., there will be a jump by the Black Daggers parachute team, of the U.S. Special Operations Command.
Children's activities include a bouncy castle, crafts, face painting and games, along with the chance to meet Sparky the Firedog and McGruff the Crime Dog.
"It's for the child to feel that people see them as an important part of the community," Suzy Carlton says. "We're not feeling sorry for them. We're celebrating them."
For more information about the event, contact Suzy Carlton at (910) 235-0271.
Contact Hannah Sharpe by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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