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April is The Month of the Military Child

By: Rep. Kristi Noem

Pierre S.D. (KELO AM) - When members of our military volunteer to serve their country, their families serve alongside them.  These spouses, parents, and children may not put on our nation’s uniform, but their service deserves no less respect. 

April has been designated as the Month of the Military Child.  Children are especially vulnerable to the stresses of military life, as they often aren’t prepared to handle all the uncertainties that come with their parent’s military service.  They deserve our support, our respect, and our prayers.

As a Member of Congress, I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of a number of activation ceremonies in South Dakota.  These ceremonies occur right before our men and women in uniform are deployed.  It’s a humbling experience to speak to and shake the hands of our service members before they leave American soil.  They’re making an incredible sacrifice and as a lawmaker, I’m compelled to ask myself if I’m doing enough to protect them and serve them.

Then, I look around at those seated in the audience and see the faces of their children.  A combination of fear, pride, and sadness shows through and it’s hard to hold back tears of your own.  In that moment, you realize you can never do enough – no one can ever do enough – to thank these children for their sacrifice.

More than 2 million children have had a parent deployed at least once since September 11, 2001, including many here in South Dakota.  For more than 900,000 of those children, they’ve experienced the deployment of one or both of their parents more than once. 

Deployments and redeployments are hard.  Their parents aren’t just missing a volleyball game or two.  They’re missing birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, weddings, and sometimes even the birth of their children.

Children whose parents serve in the National Guard and those who have endured multiple deployments are more likely to have a tough time transitioning.

As a community, we have a responsibility to support these kids, just as they are standing by our men and women in uniform.  Cheer them on when they win a basketball game or complete that solo at the Spring Concert.  Help them celebrate the good times and be there for them during the tough times.  You can also volunteer to help or donate items to one of the many organizations in our area that support military families.

For many, the struggles don’t end when their parent is welcomed home.  Our support should not end either.  The readjustment period can be just as hard – or harder.  And should these kids ever be forced to keep alive the memory of a fallen hero who they call Mom or Dad, we must redouble our efforts to be their source of comfort and support.

Of course, deployment isn’t the only challenge military families face.  The typical child of an active-duty service member moves six to nine times between kindergarten and high-school graduation.   It’s hard to maintain friendships, stay included in extracurricular activities and keep up on their school work.  For them, change is constant. 

This is something we deal with frequently in and around Ellsworth Air Force Base.  As a community, we must rally around these kids, make a point to welcome a new military family and be there for the kids who are once again trying to adjust to a new school and a new group of friends.

No matter the situation, children of military families are resilient.  This month, join me in renewing your commitment to serve and support military families.