Honoring Our Littlest Warriors
Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Cecilia Kramer. Cecilia is the Director of Development at Our Military Kids. Her grandfather was a POW during WWII when he served with the U.S. Army, and her father was a career sailor with the U.S. Navy. She was also a military spouse and mother, her husband having served in the U.S. Marine Corps, and her son in the U.S. Navy during Operation Enduring Freedom.
When her father deployed to Afghanistan last year with short notice, 14-year-old Baleigh fell into a deep depression that had to be treated.
Dancing is Baleigh’s escape from the every day world, so as part of the process of dealing with her father’s absence, she decided to concentrate on a dance that she could perform for him when he returned. She endured months of breaking down in tears just to get through rehearsals.
Our Military Kids, Inc., a national nonprofit organization based in McLean, Virginia, hears stories like Baleigh’s every day. To help these children cope, Our Military Kids provides grants to pay for extracurricular activities such as dance, martial arts, baseball, gymnastics—anything to keep a child engaged, helping to relieve the emotional toll of separation from a parent.
Social scientists continue to study the effects of a decade of war on military families, especially their children. Recent research suggests deployments and the length of separation have a negative impact on children’s academic success and psychological well-being.
April is Military Child Month
The Department of Defense has designated April as Month of the Military Child. Several governors have also proclaimed this month as a time to underscore the important role children play in the Armed Forces community. Children of U.S. service members around the world will be honored throughout April for their contributions to their families’ well-being, and the sacrifices they’ve made on behalf of the nation. Throughout the month, military installations worldwide will host programs and activities for military children, including fairs, picnics, carnivals, and parades.
Our Military Kids will hold its third annual “Celebration of Our Military Kids’ Star Power” event on April 19 at the U.S. Navy Memorial in Washington, DC. The event will feature five “Our Military Kids of the Year” who will be performing their activities for top military leaders and Members of Congress.
Baleigh was selected as one of the Military Kids of the Year. In her nomination, Baleigh’s mother wrote that, in addition to helping around the house and caring for her little sister, Baleigh organized her friends to make plastic bracelets and other trinkets that she sold, donating the proceeds to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. She is also a volunteer junior counselor at a youth camp. In addition, Baleigh helped her mother fundraise in order to put together care packages to send to her father’s unit in Afghanistan.
Baleigh will perform the dance choreographed especially for her father on stage at the Navy Memorial.
We honor the children of the National Guard, Reserves, Wounded Warriors and Fallen Service Members every day, but during the month of April, Our Military Kids wants to call special attention to the challenges these children face as their parent serves our country overseas, is recovering from injury, or has made the ultimate sacrifice.