Dandelions grow and bloom virtually anywhere their roots are planted. They symbolize happiness, strength, courage, endurance, and hope.

Dandelion is a word sometimes used to describe America’s military-connected children. From missing their deployed parent to making frequent moves and wondering if their loved one is safe, their sacrifice is a lot to endure.

During a ceremony today at the state Capitol, Missouri’s roughly 12,000 dandelions were recognized for the strength and courage that they exemplify each day – and the schools who go above and beyond the call of duty to serve them.

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) launched the Purple Star Program in 2021. Today, the department awarded seven school districts and four schools with a Purple Star designation.

This year’s Purple Star School Districts are:
• Blair Oaks R-II
• Carl Junction R-1
• Desoto 73
• Hickory Co. R-1
• Knob Noster R-VIII
• St. Clair R-XIII
• Warrensburg R-VI

This year’s Purple Star Schools are all from St. Clair R-XIII School District:
• St. Clair High School
• St. Clair Junior High School
• St. Clair Elementary School
• Edgar Murray Elementary School

Gov. Mike Parson, a U.S. Army veteran, attended today’s ceremony.

“U.S. veterans get recognized a lot, and rightfully so,” said Parson. “But I tell you, you cannot do the job without the support of your family. And your family has to make certain sacrifices. Many of you in this room has probably went to several, if I’m guessing, duty stations. You may be in Missouri for a while, you may be in another state for a while. That is the life of the military, and the sacrifices that we make, and why it’s so important for me to come here and just basically tell you thank you.”

State Education Commissioner Margie Vandeven touted the program.

“This program is just one way to reiterate our state’s commitment to our service members,” said Vandeven. “As we continue to celebrate April as the Month of the Military Child, it is an honor to award these seven school districts and four schools with the Purple Star designation. Each district and school works to support our service members and their families throughout the community, while also ensuring these children are prepared to find their path to success in Missouri.”

Brian Henry is the Missouri Commissioner for the Military Interstate Children’s Compact Commission. The commission is designed to protect the transitional needs of military students.

“Children of military service members will undergo numerous transitions throughout their educational career, which results in an average of six to nine moves prior to graduating from high school,” he said. “While these transitions are not easy, despite disruption, the strength and resilience of military children make them successful regardless of the school they attend, and their outstanding contributions enhance the educational experience of all children in their classrooms and their schools.”

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. The state has roughly 43,000 members in military uniform and service civilians making sacrifices for their country.

Col. Daniel Diehl, the commander of the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman Air Force Base, said military children experience life differently than other children.

“In that experience and with the support of our communities, it provides the support that our military children need to not only survive but to thrive in this great land,” said Diehl.

Col. Joseph “Clete” Goetz, Commandant of the U.S. Army Engineer School at Ft. Leonard Wood, said military children play a crucial role.

“They relocate to new homes, new teachers, new friends, new support systems, and it makes you more resilient. And ultimately, it’s going to help you achieve your potential. I promise you that,” he said. “I think we would all agree that our kids also serve alongside us and yet their stories don’t get told as often as the stories of those of us here in uniform.”

Grace Mitcheltree was born into military life. She is a junior at Warrensburg High School.

“So many memories this early in my life have been made possible from being a military child,” said Mitcheltree. “Not everything was sunshine and rainbows, I promise you that. But that is what I love most because every experience, good or bad, has made me grow into who I am today and what I’ll always be in the future, an Air Force brat – brave, resilient, adaptable and trustworthy.”

Six schools in the Warrensburg R-VI School District were designated as Purple Star Schools in 2022.

Michaela Moreau, a seventh grader at Waynesville Public Schools, has been to England, New Mexico, Arkansas, Missouri, and Arizona. She said Waynesville School District is different from some of the other schools she has attended.

“Waynesville is definitely a lot more accepting and more understanding than some other schools because I have been to some schools that they don’t have any military children at all. So, they do ask a lot of questions and kind of judge you based on that. Waynesville is definitely a lot more understanding than other districts,” she said.

Waynesville R-VI was designated as a Purple Star School District in 2022.

Schools that earn the designation will get a special Purple Star recognition to display onsite and on the school district or individual school building website.

Earlier stories:

A Salute to Missouri’s Military Children: https://www.missourinet.com/2022/04/20/a-salute-to-missouris-military-children/

Missouri schools join forces to help military children: https://www.missourinet.com/2021/04/15/missouri-schools-join-forces-to-help-military-children/

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