By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jess Lewis, U.S. Naval War College Public Affairs
April 12, 2017
MIDDLETOWN, R.I. – Every year, the month of April is set aside by the Department of Defense (DOD) to recognize military children and the important role they play in the armed forces community.
Established in 1986 by former Defense Secretary Casper W. Weinberger, the Month of the Military Child honors and recognizes the sacrifices military children make when their parent or even both parents are in the military.
Senior Chief Boatswain’s Mate Herb Kresge Jr., assigned to U.S. Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, and his daughter, Sierra Kresge, took time to visit Gaudet Middle School in Middletown to speak with students and teachers about some of the opportunities and struggles military children face while their parent or parents are serving in the armed forces.
“Non-military children can learn things from their military peers about other places they’ve visited and lived, especially the international students who are here on Aquidneck Island,” said Kresge. “By teaching these children to not have reservations about interacting with new students, military or not, social barriers can be broken and unique bonds can be made between military and non-military children.”
During their visit, the Kresges spoke to the students and teachers about the benefits of having military children in the community and schools. He pointed out that by taking the time to get to know military students, non-military students could learn about an entirely different culture that was once foreign to them. He also emphasized how the connections you make with students who are in the military can lead to valuable, life-long friendships with the opportunity to travel the world to visit those friends located all over the world.
“The purpose of having events where current military members and their children can come speak is to enhance connections so the ‘local’ children better understand the ‘military’ children and their experiences,” said Lori Verderosa, coordinator, Middletown Prevention Coalition (MPC).
According to the DOD website, there are 1.7 million total-force dependent military children worldwide. Out of that 1.7 million children, 1.07 million come from an active-duty military family.
On average, the active-duty military family moves just about every three years, which means the possibility of their children changing schools every three years as well. When children change schools multiple times in various places all over the world, they have a unique opportunity to learn about new cultures first-hand.
The experiences these military children have given them a different perspective that they can then share with non-military students who have not had the same opportunities to visit or live in other parts of the world.
“A lot of non-military children really haven’t experienced the kinds of challenges military children have faced,” said Beth Hayes, principal, Gaudet Middle School. “By focusing on military families and their parents, it can allow non-military families to better understand the importance of the contributions military families have made to the community.”
Sometimes families choose to stay in the last place they are assigned and then involve themselves in the community. Having prior military families integrated into the community allows for even more of an opportunity to have current military families engage with the community due to the common grounds military families often share with one another.
“I retired here after being stationed in Newport,” said Tom Lyons, chair, MPC and retired Navy captain. “So many families have retired here and became part of the community, so it’s very important to step back and focus on the military family and their contributions to the local community.”
Edited and posted by Daniel S. Marciniak