It is often said that when military members serve their country, so do their families. Missouri has roughly 43,000 members in military uniform and service civilians making sacrifices for their country, as well as more than 12,000 military children making sacrifices alongside them.
Missouri has two active duty bases – Whiteman Air Force Base in west-central Missouri’s Knob Noster and Fort Leonard Wood in southern Missouri’s Waynesville.
Liz Clark, school liaison for Whiteman Air Force Base, tells Missourinet the sacrifices that military children make can vary from other kids, including dealing with frequent moves and deployments.
“That provides some anxiety and different things where that sacrifice for them they are familiar but it also is stressful just as much or if not more, as it is on the family as a whole,” she says.
Many military children are world travelers, otherwise known as a “military brat”. The term is like a badge of honor to show their resilience from frequent moves, stressors and cultural experiences they endure along the way.
According to the Military Child Education Coalition, a military-connected child can expect to move six to nine times from kindergarten through their high school graduation, with approximately 200,000 students transitioning to a new school in any given year. It says about 80% of America’s military kids attend public schools. Schools are often a source of stability for these students.
Clark says the military has many pathways to ease these transitions. Having a point person to help families in need of services and ways to transition smoothly is the main part of her job.
“If it’s deployment or moving, we want to provide resources to the parents and the families so that they can make great decisions on which school is going to be best for their child, or if they have any kind of special learning need that we can already be working on that before they move. So, we have some supports in place for them. We want to provide the least amount of disruption in their life that we can,” she says.
Then there is the challenge when a service member returns home from deployment.
“There’s been one parent,” she says. “So, they’re used to maybe listening to a sibling or having a different role in the household and then all the roles shift around. That can be difficult as well.”
A variety of services are out there to help military kids battle the challenges they take on – so their parent or parents in uniform can complete their mission to the best of their abilities.
There’s the Exceptional Family Member Program, which helps to manage the care and services for a family member with special needs — whether it’s a spouse, child or dependent adult.
There is also the Airman and Family Readiness Center. It is a one-stop information and referral center for families that offers connections to ensure military personnel and their families have the appropriate services both on and off base.
Child and Youth Services has a variety of child care, health and wellness, arts, career development and leadership programs.
Clark says Tutor.com and Military OneSource also help with counseling and free online tutoring.
Gov. Mike Parson, a U.S. Army veteran, has designated April as the Month of the Military Child. To recognize their service, the Missouri Governor’s Mansion will shine purple tonight for military children across the state.
Why purple? The color represents all branches of the military; it is the combination of each of their respective colors combined into one. It shows unity among each branch.
On April 13, America’s First Lady, Dr. Jill Biden, and U.S. Education Secretary, Dr. Miguel Cardona, visited Whiteman Elementary School and Knob Noster High School to recognize what military children bring to the table.
“This life is unlike any other. You face different challenges from most kids your age—challenges that the adults in your life can’t shield you from, no matter how hard we try,” said the first lady. “Parents, I know there have been moments when you’ve asked yourself if you made the right choice for your child during your service. But I hope you see how the path you’ve chosen has made these students the incredible people they have become—people who are ready for whatever the world has in store for them. Isn’t that what all parents want for our children? Our world is your hometown, and as you serve and represent our nation, you are shaping it, every day.”
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