(StatePoint) Life in the U.S. Armed Forces can be challenging, particularly for the nearly 1.2 million children of active-duty service members.
During April, which is the Month of the Military Child, the United Service Organizations (USO) is raising awareness of both the constant change and uncertainty “military brats” are often faced with, and efforts being made to support these youngest members of the military community – who, like their parents, make huge sacrifices on behalf of our country.
“I grew up as a ‘military brat’ and my Dad served on active duty my entire childhood until I was commissioned in the Navy myself. The realities of military life can take a toll on children,” says Alan J. Reyes, USO chief operations officer.
Here are five USO programs supporting military children:
1. Connection through reading. Sometimes there’s nothing a child wants more after a long day at a new school than for their parent to read them a bedtime story. The USO Reading Program is helping deployed service members and military children connect through books. Service members can walk into a participating USO location where they are deployed, record themselves reading their child’s favorite story and have that recording emailed to their child -- and a copy of the book shipped home. In turn, military children can read a book on camera, add that book to their personal collection and send the recording to their deployed family member. The program also offers story-time events, where military children can spend time with other kids their own age who are also entrenched in military life.
2. Fun activities. Many of the more than 250 USO locations worldwide offer programs and events to military children and families, including arts and crafts, family game nights, virtual cooking classes and scavenger hunts. These fun events can offer a little distraction for kids and help bring military families closer together.
3. Baby showers. Being far from loved ones and support networks can be exceptionally difficult on families during pregnancy and in the first few years following birth. To support military parents and set military children up for success, USO Special Delivery hosts in-person and virtual baby showers, which include games, local guest speakers, raffle drawings for gifts, and a touch of home during a challenging time.
4. Entertainment. Today, USO entertainment tours and virtual programs include family-friendly events with celebrities and experts across a variety of industries, such as a live Q&A with world-renowned conservationist Dr. Jane Goodall, a live cooking demo with Food Network’s Valerie Bertinelli, and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) activities with Emily Calandrelli from “Emily’s Wonder Lab”.
5. A “Home Away from Home.” When stationed far from everything familiar, especially in distant locations overseas, military kids can turn to their local USO center where they will be surrounded by a supportive community. Designed with comfort in mind, these centers are often outfitted with plushy furniture, a kitchen full of snacks, plenty of books, and programs and services that keep the military community connected and entertained.
To learn more, and discover ways you can help support military children, visit https://www.uso.org.
“Although they don’t wear a uniform, military kids still serve in their own way, and they deserve our support,” says Reyes.
Photo Credit: (c) USO Photos