April is Month of the Military Child
Children of military members have always had a unique lifestyle: they move frequently, they have to learn to adapt to new schools and make new friends, and they grow up spending extended periods of time separated from one or both parents. The term “military brat” is a badge of pride for generations of kids who have grown up in this nomadic lifestyle, and many become adults capable of handling anything that comes their way. As recognition of the unique sacrifice children of military members make in service to their nation, April was designated the Month of the Military Child in 1986.
One thing has changed how brats and their parents communicate with one another during times of separation more than any other: technology. When 9/11 happened and our military began deploying more frequently, long-distance communication became more common. Families often had to clear their schedule on a set time and date to be available for a short phone call, or wait for letters to make their way across the Atlantic to hear from loved ones. Calling cards were a popular addition to care packages, as the cost to call back home could be significant. Eventually the infrastructure of our deployed locations improved and families could use Skype to communicate, but usually time was still limited as most military members had to share computers.
Today, our military children are able to speak to their parents much more frequently when they’re gone. Parents can now eat breakfast with their children over video chat, record videos about their day, or even read bedtime stories together. There have been noticeable changes in the long term impact these separations have on families, but our military children still need support from the local community.
According to Military OneSource, the Defense Manpower Data Center reported there were 2,564 active duty children and 5,885 National Guard and Reserve children in South Dakota as of December 2020. While we cherish our military families all year, April is a special time set aside specifically for them. To show support during the Month of the Military Child, members of the community can wear purple on “Purple Up Day” on Wednesday, April 14. The color is used in the military to represent the Joint environment — or when multiple services work together — so it was the perfect choice to represent kids from all branches of the military.
To show your support here in the Black Hills, you can tag pictures of you and your family wearing purple with #PurpleUpBlackHills, or support the national campaign with #PurpleUp.
For families or community organizations looking to celebrate the month in other ways, here’s a great list of ideas from the Air Force School Liaison Program. The Military Child Education Coalition has also put together a great list of resources for celebrating the month, including a handy toolkit with posters and templates for stickers and certificates.