April is the Month of the Military Child. This awareness month was established in 1986 by then-Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger to underscore the important role children play in the Armed Forces community.

There are approximately 1.88 million military children, ranging in age from newborn to 18 years old. Care of military children sustains our fighting force, and strengthens the health, security and safety of our nation's families and communities.

From deployments to new schools, military children are faced with unique challenges that ordinary youth their age never experience. Their ability to adapt to present and future changes deserves our respect and admiration. In an effort to recognize the hard work and applaud the courage of military children, the Department of Defense has deemed April the Month of the Military Child. It is a time to honor military youth for the important role they play in contributing to the strength of the military family.

Shortly after the end of World War II, the United States military established schools for the children of its service men and women stationed in Europe and the Pacific. Schools for children of military members stationed at various bases in the United States were already well-established.

First administered by the military branches they served, the growing number of schools was soon transferred to civilian managers. They organized into two separate but parallel systems, Department of Defense Dependents Schools overseas, and the Department of Defense Domestic Dependent Elementary and Secondary Schools in the United States. In 1994 the two systems were brought together under an umbrella agency, the Department of Defense Education Activity.

A campaign created four years ago by Operation Military Kids, an organization dedicated to military children, encourages schools to wear purple on a designated day in April to participate in an annual “Purple Up” campaign for military kids. The color purple was chosen because it is the color that symbolizes all branches of the military, as it is the combination of Army green, Coast Guard blue, Air Force blue, Marine red and Navy blue

Local schools can show support of military children by clicking on the following link and printing the poster to display in your classrooms: militarychild.org/public/upload/images/MMOC_2013_Poster_-_Final_Pick.pdf.

To learn more about the Month of the Military Child, please visit archive.defense.gov/home/features/2015/0415_militarychild.

On a personal note, I want to share a recent experience I had at the Bangor Airport. While I was waiting for a flight to New York, I noticed a family gathered around a young man as he was waiting for the same flight I was going on. The young man was on his way to start his new career in the U.S. Air Force. I could see how emotional his parents were and I went over and shook the young man’s hand and thanked him for his commitment to join the military. I also told him how proud I know his family, state of Maine and our country are of his commitment to serve to protect our freedoms.

Joy Asuncion is retired from the U.S. Navy. She is an Honor Flight Maine Board Member and a Maine Troop Greeter. To contact Joy, email joyasuncion@roadrunner.com or call 930-5640.