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The Smaller Military Family Members – How Do We Honour Them

Best of Spring 2014-01Every April, in the United States, military families and organizations celebrate the month of the Military Child.  In 1986, Defence Secretary Casper Weinberger designated April as the month that should honour military children.  Throughout the US there are celebrations and activities to highlight the sacrifices and courage those children demonstrate every day by being a member of a military family.  Should Canadians do the same?

I have taken some time to really think about this, as I am not a fan of days like Valentines Day, Mother’s Day or Grandparent’s Day for the same reason I was hesitant about this initiative.  I feel as though many people are kind on those specific times and then treat the rest of the year as if what they do doesn’t matter – a bouquet of flowers or a card on mother’s day will make up for neglect on the other 364 days.  Having said this, as Canadians we do not adequately discuss the struggles that military kids experience.  Most civilians have little to no idea of the challenges military children are faced with.

Our children have had to move, leave friends and all that is familiar to them. They are now getting ready this week to say good-bye to their Dad for the next eight to 10 weeks, as he will be on another training exercise hundreds of kilometers away. When he served in Afghanistan and Bosnia, my kids didn’t get to see him for months on end and had to put up with a Mom who, some days, was just getting by. They had to celebrate birthdays and other special occasions without one of the most important people in their world.  Why don’t we Canadians honour the hardships and sacrifices that children in military families make too?

When I worked on the base at CFB Petawawa I would often see children whose complete nature and behavior appeared to alter overnight.  They would be unable to attend to tasks, appear to be disengaged, hyper active or depressed and unable to enjoy many of the activities they had previously enjoyed only weeks before.  It did not take staff long to discover that a parent had either left or just come home and once again their world was changing.

Children of military families also serve their country; and I believe that this is not understood or celebrated enough by Canadians so perhaps we should have a month or even a day to honour their role in keeping our country and other countries safe.  Maybe it is important to designate some time each year to highlight the silent, smaller heroes who have to make a lot of sacrifices as well.

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Megan Egerton

Megan Egerton is a military wife, mother of two, principal and writer. Author of While You Were Away:101 Tips for Families Experiencing Absence or Deployment

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