HONOLULU – Service members are placed on the front lines every day to fight for the U.S. And while they are constantly on the minds of Americans as they ship off to various foreign locations, not often do thoughts go toward the little ones these heroes are leaving behind.
In celebration of the “Month of the Military Child,” Army Reserve soldiers of the 9th Mission Support Command took time out their busy schedules to honor those little heroes who stand proudly and wait for their parent or parents to rejoin them at home.
Throughout the week of April 15 to 19, the Pacific Army Reserve soldiers, joined by service members from the Coast Guard, Air Force, Hawaii Army National Guard and active duty Army, read to nearly 2,500 children in more than 120 classrooms around Oahu and in Guam in support of the “Recognizing Military Children through Reading” initiative.
Coordinated by Sandra I. Rivera, school support specialist for the 9th MSC’s Child Youth and School Services office, volunteers were invited to travel to various schools across the islands and read to elementary school-aged children.
“Our goal is to highlight the importance of reading amongst children, while focusing on the unique lifestyle of a military child,” said Rivera.
The unique lifestyle of these children is just what drove most of these service members to volunteer. Sgt. Kiana Vincent, chaplain assistant for the 9th MSC’s 124th Chaplain Detachment, said she was very touched by the reaction she had in the classroom.
“Everyone sees how hard it is on the soldiers who deploy, but it’s especially hard for the kids who have to go a year or more without seeing their parent,” said Vincent. “I really wanted these kids to know they’re just as much of a hero as their mom or dad.”
Vincent read the book “I’m a Hero Too,” which tells the story of a little boy coping and thriving while his dad is away on deployment.
“I chose this book because it not only helps the kids to understand they aren’t alone and that there are others who feel the same way, but it also gives some great ideas for how they can keep in touch with their parent,” explained Vincent.
During her reading, Vincent engaged the children by asking if any of them had parents currently deployed or who will deploy soon. Little hands popped up all over with children eager to tell their stories.
One little girl’s story in particular stood out in Vincent’s mind.
“You could really see the hurt in this little girl’s eyes as she said her dad is getting ready to deploy. It really opened my eyes to what these children go through and made me feel proud to be able to help them in some small way,” said Vincent.
As Vincent finished reading the book in her last classroom for the week, she asked the children why they thought they were heroes. With the remnants of tears still in her blue eyes and a smile on her face, the blonde-haired, first-grader answered, “because we have to be strong and wait for them to come home.”