April 1, 2014 — Every year, April is designated as “Month of the Military Child.” During this month, military children are recognized for their important role in the military community and honored for their contribution.
“Our country’s military children should be celebrated as heroes every day. These incredible military kids live in a perpetually changing family dynamic of parents deploying, frequent moves to new duty stations, adjusting to new schools and constantly having to meet new friends,” said Mike Landers, Armed Services YMCA (ASYMCA) President and CEO. “There is no doubt they serve with their parents and it’s important not to overlook the role they play in supporting America’s armed services.”
In honor of military children everywhere, the ASYMCA encourages Americans to support military children and families in their communities by volunteering or donating to programs that meet their needs.
The stress associated with military life, can be overwhelming for children. Having an absent parent because of deployment, or frequently moving and adjusting to new schools and neighborhoods is disruptive for many families. Operation Hero is an after school program designed to help school-age military children improve academically and socially, and generally assist them in dealing with the challenges associated with living in a military family. Students are referred by their teachers, school administrators or parent for after-school tutoring and mentoring assistance in a small group with certified teachers and mentors. Operation Hero facilitates a positive learning and coping environment for military children while encouraging responsible behavior in order to build their self-esteem and social skills, enhance their ability to better manage stress and emotions, and improve their academic focus and achievements. In 2013, more than 2,800 military children have benefited from the after school academic and social tutoring provided by Operation Hero.
“I have a unique perspective of the program because I was first introduced when my daughter took the class after my husband deployed to Iraq,” said Julie Hull, mother of a military child who participated in the program and current director of Operation Hero at ASYMCA affiliate, Watertown Family YMCA. “I have seen first-hand, how the Operation Hero program has helped students gain more confidence in themselves or become more successful in school academics.”
Since 2001, more than two million American children, 800,000 of those younger than five-years-old, have had a mother or father deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan. The Operation Kid Comfort (OKC) program creates custom-made quilts and pillows for children of deployed service members, to help children cope with the emotional stress they suffer during a parent’s absence. Each pillow or quilt is handmade by volunteers and features photos of the child with their deployed parent. To date, more than 20,000 quilts and pillows have been lovingly created by scores of volunteers around the country. In 2013 alone the ASYMCA provided over 2,300 quilts and pillows to military children.
“My girls are so proud to see their blankets and pictures. They stared at the pictures of their dad in awe,” shared one mother and military spouse whose children received OKC quilts. “It is amazing that there are people willing to make such a huge difference in the life of a military family. The quilts were truly amazing and the detail was perfect.”
The ASYMCA operates more than 150 programs sites nationwide that provide support to military children and their families through unique programming focused on childcare assistance, health and wellness services, and deployment support for spouses and families.
Consider supporting ASYMCA programming and military families in your community in honor of Month of the Military Child. For more information about ASYMCA programs or to make a contribution visit www.asymca.org.