ST. PAUL, Minn. - April is the Month of the Military Child. On the morning of Tuesday, April 17, Minnesota’s military-connected youth were honored for the first time at the State Capitol Rotunda in St. Paul, to celebrate the fourth annual “Purple Up!” day.
This was an opportunity to call attention to military kids who endure special challenges when a parent serves in the armed forces. Event attendees wore the color purple, to symbolize all branches of the military, as a fun way to show support.
Purple Up! is a nationwide effort initiated by Operation Military Kids. The recognition reinforces that military-connected youth play an integral role in supporting their service member.
The event was supported locally by a variety of community members and special guests to include: Gov. Mark Dayton, Maj. Gen. Richard Nash, the adjutant general of the Minnesota National Guard, and committed civic leader Terri Popp, president of the Minnesota Military Family Tribute. They all acknowledged the resilience that military-connected youth embody, and offered a heartfelt thank you.
Each year, Dayton invites Minnesota service members to register their children for a letter from him that recognizes military kids for the tremendous role they play in the lives of Service members.
The letter states, “You serve in your own way by being supportive, understanding, and patient. We understand it is difficult to have a deployed Service Member miss an important holiday, birthday, sports event, or graduation. We are very grateful for you.”
Ten-year-old Gavin Hannan, of Farmington, and his little sister Reagan, 3, received their letters from Dayton in person.
Daughter of an Army chief warrant officer, Maurela Miller, 15, explained, “It’s a lot of sacrifice on both parts. Both deployments, when my dad was gone, we had a new baby brother each time, and we had to help raise them and help with the dogs. Being the oldest, I had to help out a lot, keeping the family together. It’s kind of just a day-by-day thing; you never know what is coming next. Before my dad got deployed, we were all so close, and having him gone for so long, we are still trying to pick up the pieces.”
Her younger sister, Bailey, explained that getting a letter from the governor was very helpful to her, that it made her feel proud of herself and her dad.
In Minnesota, 20,000 men and women serve in the military. Currently, about 275 Minnesota National Guard members are deployed. The 114th Transportation Company, based in Chisholm, sent home a special video message for the youth from overseas to let them know that their smiles, letters and love are what keeps them strong.
Jenn Ballard, a military spouse, brought her three military kids ages 4, 2 and 1.
She emotionally expressed, “I think it is so important that we as a community support these kids, because they are truly heroes on the home front. They go through sacrifices and struggles, yet show strength in the difficult times.”
Terri Popp made a ground-breaking announcement that a memorial will be constructed by the Minnesota Military Family Tribute on the State Capitol Mall, which will be the first of its kind in the nation for military families. The Mall of America, one of the newest Yellow Ribbon companies, donated gift baskets for the military youth. Vikings cheerleaders attended the event and posed for photos. Twins tickets were also made available.
“It is important for these military-connected youth to know that their nation and community stand by them in support, and that we recognize their strength and the sacrifices they have made,” said Army Capt. Marian Belinski, Minnesota National Guard state family programs director.
In addition to the Purple Up! event, many activities for military youth are scheduled throughout April. Find a complete list at www.MinnesotaNationalGuard.org and click on the Month of the Military Child special feature. Letters from the governor are requested by visiting the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs website www.MinnesotaVeteran.org.