The U.S. military has a special place in its purple heart for the children whose parents have signed a blank check to the United States of America. Today, many people in Missouri’s military community are wearing purple to honor these unsung heroes.

The color purple 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.

Military-connected children endure many triumphs and challenges. From frequent moves to missing a deployed parent, schools are often a place of consistency for these young world travelers.

From left: Blair Oaks middle and intermediate school principals Melinda Aholt and Tracey Burns (Photo by Julie Smith)

From left: Blair Oaks middle and intermediate school principals Melinda Aholt and Tracey Burns (Photo by Julie Smith)

An annual ceremony today at the state Capitol recognized Missouri’s roughly 12,000 military-connected children and the schools who make it their mission to serve these students. The ceremony coincides with April being designated as the Month of the Military Child, which has been recognized nationally for about 40 years.

Whiteman Air Force Base Col. Keith Butler said military children are burdened with many heavy things, such as rapidly changing schedules, long separations, deployments, war, and the fear of parents not coming home.

“Our parents, me, my wife, we volunteer to serve in the military. Every child here has been drafted,” he said. “They didn’t get a choice. We ask a lot of you.”

He said the military has an obligation to do right by these children.

Grayson Duplissie, a junior who attends Warrensburg High, said he has moved five times. He’s attended nine different schools.

“Being a military kid, it’s difficult, he told Missourinet. “But what you get out of it can mask the difficulties and really kind of change your life, which it’s kind of obvious that it will, but in ways that you wouldn’t even expect.”

His dad has served in the U.S. Air Force for 22 years.

“My dad has been deployed a number of times to many different places, throughout the Middle East, South Korea, and Europe. His deployments have overlapped with holidays and even birthdays,” said Duplissie. “Having close friends for longer than four years was unknown to me. Having a familiar city for longer than four years was unknown to me. That is the life of a military brat. Don’t get me wrong, I love this life.”

Rep. Bill Hardwick, R-Dixon, served as an enlisted soldier and officer in the Missouri National Guard and U.S. Army.

“The reason why your parents do what they do is because they love you,” Hardwick told the crowd. “Your parents who serve get their strength and their motivation from you because they love you. You’re worth fighting for this country for. As much as you miss your parents when they’re gone, they miss you, too, every single day.”

Missouri launched the Purple Star Schools program in 2022. For this year, the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has awarded a Purple Star designation to the following school districts and individual school buildings:

• Crocker R-II School District
• Warren Co. R-III School District
• Black Hawk Middle School (Warren Co. R-III)
• Blair Oaks Middle School (Blair Oaks R-II)
• Daniel Boone Elementary School (Warren Co. R-III)
• Rebecca Boone Elementary School (Warren Co. R-III)
• Eureka Senior High School (Rockwood School District)
• Hopewell Academy Early Childhood Center (Warren Co. R-III)
• Smith-Cotton High School (Sedalia School District 200)
• Warrenton High School (Warren Co. R-III)
• Warrior Ridge Elementary School (Warren Co. R-III)

This year’s designees join 11 Missouri K-12 public school districts and 10 individual school buildings who were previously awarded with the designation.

State Education Commissioner Margie Vandeven explained why the department rolled out the Purple Star Schools program two years ago.

“I think we realized how important our military families are to us in the state of Missouri and really wanting to recognize those school districts and school buildings who go the extra mile to make sure we’re welcoming our families into our schools and serving our students well,” Vandeven told Missourinet.

She said we all win when military students succeed.

“At the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, we welcome, embrace, and support military children across our state. Our military members can serve our nation with confidence when they know that their students are not only learning but are also cared for and supported at every turn,” said Vandeven.

Maj. Gen. Christopher Beck, commanding general of the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence at Ft. Leonard Wood, praised Missouri’s educators.

“You need to understand how incredibly important what you do is for these young men and women. You often spend more time with our kids than we do,” said Beck. “Your care and your passion translate directly to them. You are the consistency that they really value and need in many cases.”

Beck said serving in the military is a team sport.

“My kids used to tell me all the time, ‘Hey dad, you volunteered. We were voluntold.’ They didn’t get a choice, but they were just as committed every single day as I was. There wasn’t a move that didn’t hit them as hard every single time as it did me,” he said. “Those challenges, those opportunities, they will make you unbelievably resilient, unbelievably talented young men and women when you emerge on the other side. You will have experiences that a lot of your peers will never have. They will make you into young men and young women that are incredibly valuable to our nation.”

Schools and districts that earn this special designation will receive a special Purple Star recognition to display on campus and on the school district’s or individual school building’s website.

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