MANHATTAN, Kan. – The U.S. Department of Defense has designated April as The Month of the Military Child to honor and support military families and the sacrifices they make on behalf of the nation’s citizens and larger world.
The annual designation dates to 1986, when then Secretary of Defense, Casper W. Weinberger, recognized the sacrifices of military personal and the need to offer greater support to military families.
With many changes in our society and the world since that time, Ann Domsch, Kansas’ coordinator for Operation Military Kids, noted that changes in the military and demands on military families continue to support the former Defense Chief’s recommendations.
“There was a time when military families were typically assigned to a post or base, and had ready access to social and other services, including programs in place for families experiencing deployment,” Domsch said.
“Many of today’s military families are, however, members of the National Guard who are living in a community far away from a military post or base when tapped for active duty and deployment.”
While the families of Guard members typically stay in their communities, they also will experience a new normal and face a variety of issues associated with deployment.
For example, when a two-parent household becomes a one-parent household, the at-home parent learns to juggle responsibilities formerly shared by both parents. Children used to day-to-day interaction with both parents can have difficulty adjusting to life without the absent parent and experience a variety of feelings, including anxiety about their absent parent’s welfare and family as a whole.
Guard members who are currently on active duty represent 98 of Kansas’ 105 counties, so many of their families are faced with driving 100 or more miles to McConnell Air Force Base, Wichita, Kan.; Fort Riley, Junction City, Kan.; and Fort Leavenworth, Leavenworth, Kan., for support services that were formerly readily available to military families.
That’s why Kansas communities are encouraged to identify military families – and to reach out to help them, Domsch said.
To begin, Domsch encouraged every Kansan to show their support for military families by wearing the color purple on April 15.
“The color purple combines the colors chosen to represent America’s military forces: Army green, Air Force blue, Marine red, and Navy blue,” said Domsch, who also offered a list of ideas for communities to show their support for military families:
* Host a picnic, potluck supper or ice cream social with family-style activities for military families;
* Plan a weekly, biweekly or monthly family afternoon or evening for military families, with activities, such as a board game or sports night;
* Organize a weekly morning out with free child-care provided to relieve a military parent of child-care responsibility, or an on-call babysitting service for parents who may have a doctor’s or other appointments that could best be handled without children tagging along.
* Ask for volunteers willing to be on-call to do small household repairs or assist with seasonal yard work that could seem overwhelming.
* Organize a school assembly to help students understand the military roles that community members are fulfilling, and recognize children whose parents are serving their country.
* Set up a help-wanted service for youth who would like to borrow a dad or mom to play catch, learn how to fix a bicycle tire, tune up a lawn mower, fix a meal, practice grocery or other shopping skills, etc.
There are many ways to get involved to help support military families, said Domsch, who urges everyone to check with local school and community groups, such as the Chamber of Commerce, local PRIDE organization and local K-State Research and Extension office.
More information also is available at Operation Military Kids at Operation Military Kids.
As state coordinator for Operation: Military Kids, Ann Domsch works with K-State Research and Extension offices, various local and state agencies to support military families. The program is funded by the U.S. Army.
Ann Domsch is a former K-State Research and Extension family and consumer sciences agent, and area 4-H specialist.