MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII - In Hawaii, they are a force of more than 21,200 individuals daily adapting and overcoming to the many challenges of military life.
They are the number of school-age children in the state whose parents currently serve in the military, according to a 2013 report from U.S. Pacific Command and the Military Child Initiative. This month leaders worldwide are united in honoring them during Month of the Military Child.
“Every day is their day,” said Kathy Kim, director of Marine Corps Base Hawaii’s Youth Activities Center. “Especially during this month, we try to put the focus on them. The month is a way to let them know they are very special, not just the kids who come to the Youth Activities Center, all military kids.”
Kim said one of the toughest dilemmas children of service members face is what to expect when their parent’s job can be unpredictable and requires frequent relocation. She said the center works to provide regular activities for children and teens to ensure they have a positive outlet to depend on.
“What we’ve tried to do (at the center) is help the children address their biggest challenge,” Kim said. “We work hard to be a consistent, loving environment where they feel safe.”
For many children, like 8-year-old Logan Miller, finding community support gives him needed strength.
Miller, whose father is an active-duty Marine, said he feels encouraged by his peers at the center and adults in the community who go out of their way to help his family during deployments.
“I can feel sad, sometimes disappointed when my dad is on deployment,” he said. “But I know it is just part of his job.”
As a daughter of parents who are both active duty Marines, 8-year-old Madison Spurr recommends crafting care packages and decorating letters to parents as they’re deployed. Both Miller and Spurr suggest to children whose parents are away on deployment to focus on ways to keep up communication by Internet messaging and sending notes.
No matter their age, the dependence on a caring support system of adults and peers is critical, said 17-year-old Alexys Stephens, a frequent patron of the base center.
Stephens said she’s found the courage to handle the challenges of life in a military family by leading club activities and spending time with others at the center.
“If you’re having a hard time at home, it’s easier coming to the center,” she said. “You can be among kids with the same things happening to them.”
For more information about the Month of the Military Child and free resources for children, see http://www.dodea.edu/dodeaCelebrates/MilitaryChild/2013/