EL CENTRO – During the annual Military Child Appreciation Parade held the morning of April 19, the Naval Air Facility (NAF) El Centro gathered the youth of the base along with their choice of transportation to recognize the sacrifices children of military parents must make.
Nature surely cooperated by giving the children and parents a nice breezy morning as military-based children from six weeks to 18 years of age walked, biked, skated, strolled, scootered, tricycled and traveled by red-wagon as they smiled and sang, starring in their own parade down the main corridor at the base.
“The month of the military child started in 1986,” said Capt. Brent A. Alfonzo, “and for the last 15 years of constant overseas conflict, it has been in the spot light, where it deserves to be.”
“It is important to highlight this moment in the kids’ mobile lifestyles and the unique stress in their military life,” said Kristopher Haugh, NAF Public Affairs Officer. “It is important for us to help military service members care for their children properly so they can perform their job more efficiently, knowing their children are taken care of.”
Many elevate and appreciate service members for all they do for the USA, but their children are often overlooked, according to event organizers. Most service members are not only known by their military titles and the service they belong to, but many also hold titles as “mom” and “dad”. The stress military children face is the same as what other non-military children experience, plus the burden of constant mobility, absent parents, and knowing their parents could be in harm’s way.
Military children often carry heavy burdens when their parents are deployed or they must move to a different base for assignment, said Haugh. Service members from the US Army or Marine Corp often leave on yearlong tours, and not knowing if their parents will return from tour is a heartbreaking thought, he explained.
Military children often celebrate a birthday, Christmas or a special recognition at school without one or both military parents, said Capt. Alonzo. Often kids are asked to maintain a strong front for their parents. They are raised to be strong and adapt to different locations or situations their lifestyles present to them, he said, and the services recognize and acknowledge the sacrifices military children experience because their parents signed up to protect and fight for the country.
“It is important for children to know they are important and help our country,” said Katrina Portwood from the NAF Child Development Center.
Some service members choose to serve their country as “Geographic Bachelors,” meaning they live in a separate location than their families, just as Capt. Alfonzo has. Although their child’s life is not so mobile, the stress of deployment and separation still weighs heavily on them, according to Capt. Alonzo.
“It is important for our country to show us kids how important we are,” said Ariana Marcus. Her lifestyle may become a bit more stable when her father, Command Master Chief Wayne Marcus, retires in the near future.
“You all know, we ask a lot of you guys, you are all military kids,” said Capt. Alonzo in a speech to the children attending. “You didn’t ask for this, but you know you all make sacrifices, too. You have to move all the time, leave some old friends to go and make new ones. Sometimes mom and dad don’t get to show up for Christmases and birthdays, and you have to be strong, keep the home front, and you do an outstanding job. We need to say thank you. We are very proud of you for being the strong military kids that you are.”
NAF El Centro also planned various other activities through the month of April to show the children how important and how proud the base is of their sacrifices they have made.