Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., celebrated the Month of the Military Child with a smart salute to the children by carrying out a “Purple Up for Military Kids” car parade that began the of afternoon of April 24, 2020, and toured for two-and-a-half hours through all the housing areas on base.
Base leaders, school teachers and administrators – even the Easter Bunny sporting a purple facemask – slowly rolled vehicles of various shapes and sizes decorated with signs, balloons and streamers through all the housing areas, including the family camp, the school-age annex and the child development center.
Base children emerged from their houses and into their front yards where they were greeted with signs from the caravan.
“We love you! We miss you! You rock!” the signs said.
As car after car passed – numbering as many as 60, including fire and security forces vehicles – the children also received a few small tokens of appreciation. These were provided with safe, minimal handling from those in the caravan.
The planned takeaway for organizers was this – the parade offered children a measure of social connectedness at a time when social distancing had kept them physically separated for well over a month.
It was an opportunity to interact, and people showed up.
“I couldn’t believe the turnout – the teachers, base leadership and all the children out in their yards,” said Candace Lang, Edwards school liaison, who helped organize the event.
Many other activities had been planned to celebrate the month, but those plans had to be canceled to comply with COVID-19 social distancing health guidelines. This was one event that organizers felt could be carried out safely that would provide a way to recognize the children and honor them and the sacrifices they make by having one or both parents in the military.
Witnessing the excited interactions – albeit from a distance – between the teachers and the students was all Branch Elementary principal John Siercks needed to see to know the event was a success.
“It was awesome! I loved seeing the excitement in the children’s faces and the teachers were so glad to see the students – at least one teacher, it brought tears to her eyes. It was a great event!” Siercks said.
Although Siercks was pleasantly surprised by what he witnessed at the event, his communications with teachers, students and parents have given him ample evidence that many are missing their usual associations.
“I’ve been getting a lot of feedback – kids emailing me, emailing their teachers, the teachers are telling me the kids are missing their teachers, the teachers are missing their students,” Siercks said.
“Everybody’s missing being in school right now.
“Even though we’re doing a great job of distance learning – and we are doing a great job of that – it’s just not the same. Everybody is looking forward to getting back together again,” he said.
April 24th was designated as the State of California’s “Purple Up” Day. The month of April has been designated the Month of the Military Child since 1986 when it was established under Caspar Weinberger, former U.S. Secretary of Defense. It acknowledges the role military youth play and the sacrifices they make by having parents in the military. Purple was chosen as the color that symbolizes all branches of the military as it is a combination of Army green, Marine red, and Coast Guard, Air Force, and Navy blue.
Demographically, military-connected children comprise nearly two million students. Almost every school district in America includes military-connected students and youth whose parents serve or have served in the active-duty, guard and reserve components of the Armed Forces. More than 80 percent of those students attend U.S. public schools while less than 8 percent attend Department of Defense schools.