By Brittany Laursen
Strong and resilient, the dandelion has quickly become the symbol of the military child. Just like the perennial flower, military children are able to bloom and thrive anywhere in the world they are planted. During April, the official Month of the Military Child, dandelions are displayed to celebrate and honor these kids.
To celebrate these special members of the military community, USO Baumholder, in Germany, hosted a “Month of the Military Child”-themed storytime event. Military kids gathered in the family room with toys and bean bag chairs to listen USO Center Manager Adriana Fink read “I’m a Dandelion: A PCS Story for Military Children” by Brooke Mahaffey. Parents and kids followed the journey of young Lucy and Jack as they discovered their family would be moving and how much they have in common with a dandelion flower. After the story, kids donned aprons and dipped their fingers into pastel pinks and blues to create their own colorful flowers to take home.
USO Centers around the world like USO Baumholder host events throughout the year that are targeted toward bringing military families closer together.
“I love hosting big programs and we love tying in observance months into everything we do,” said Adriana. “We have used this book to tie in the month to the kids that come here, so that they can consume and process it. We really want to do it big for our kids because they deserve it.”
As a military spouse and mother herself, Adriana understands firsthand what a challenging and exciting life military brats lead.
“I love watching my kids’ identities weave through all the places we’ve lived. They’re such worldly, awesome kids — it’s not a detriment to them. I love taking this time to reflect on all the ways they’ve been challenged.”
Being stationed in a foreign country, away from friends and family, can be difficult. That time becomes even more stressful for children and stay-at-home parents when their service member leaves for work or deploy even further from home. Enter in USO Centers — welcoming spaces that are full of cheerful USO staff and volunteers, games, snacks and fun programs for the whole family. USO Centers regularly host interactive crafts, game nights, cooking classes and much more. Programs like Storytime allow parents and kids the chance to connect with other families who have had similar experiences.
As she tied a bright red apron around her daughter’s neck, Roxanne Gregory noted: “We love coming to events. It’s hard being a stay-at-home mom, but coming to the USO is a great way to get out of the house. It’s like a getaway.”
Originally from San Diego, Roxanne and her family are living overseas for the first time and enjoy meeting and interacting with other military families.
“We come to the USO every week — Storytime is our favorite activity.” Seeing the joy in her daughters’ faces as they paint made every adult in the room smile. It’s evident all the kids in the room felt light and happy as they explored and played together.
“Military children go through a lot of unique challenges that most children don’t go through,” said military spouse and mother Jessica McLaughlin. “We move around a lot. They have to leave their friends and everything they know to move across the world … which presents a different set of challenges.”
The USO has become a familiar touchpoint for thousands of military families around the world. With more than 250 USO locations worldwide, families can rest assured there is almost always a USO Center nearby with a calendar full of fun and engaging events.
“We come multiple times a week,” said Jessica. “The family room is on point and the free snacks and coffee make our day. From the first day we got here to Germany, we actually walked from where we live just to come hang out.”
“My kids love it here. We can visit our friends or just close the door and play for a while,” Jessica added. “If I ask my kids where they want to go, they will always say the USO.”
For military families stationed in Germany and all other corners of the world, the only consistent thing about military life is the lack of consistency. Change is constant, and military kids in particular must deal with unique challenges that their civilian counterparts will never experience. From the absence of a parent, to moving between schools multiple times a year, to losing friends and never quite having a sense of stability, military brat life can be rewarding, but it can also be hard.
That is why it is crucial to support all members of the military community – including our nation’s military children – and ensure that at the USO, they always have a space they can rely on and feels like home, no matter where their parent’s service takes them.
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