CHEYENNE, Wyo. – Local organizations helped provide resources to support a few dozen children from Wyoming National Guard families gathered at the Laramie County Community College on Friday to celebrate the Month of the Military Child.
For more than three decades, these types of events have recognized the hardship and sacrifice made by scores of military children over time. Oftentimes called ‘military brats,’ because they know no other life following the wider movements of at least one parent’s career; some of the children even wear it as a badge of honor.
It is a tradition that began when Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger established April as the Month of the Military Child in 1986. The Department of Defense, including the National Guard, has since honored the proclamation.
The Wyoming National Guard’s State Command Chief, Chief Master Sgt. Joshua Moore, keynote speaker at the event, said during his remarks, “That this was something (military children) were born into, they didn’t ask to be a part of it. They accepted that this was just the part of it. They don’t complain. They don’t get bothered by it. They realize ‘my’ parents are doing something special. And when we get to put on this uniform as parents of military children, I will tell you we have a purpose to serve our country. Unfortunately it requires us to leave our families behind. Our children know no different than that and appreciate it.”
The lead for the Wyoming National Guard’s Child and Youth Program Danae M. Petersen, said prior to the event she hoped that Wyoming’s celebration would have a good turnout at LCCC. On Friday, she was fortunate to see a ballroom filled with clamoring kids, who after the speeches and essay award presentations, took advantage of several games, including how to be your own super hero, the event’s theme.
“In Wyoming, we focus a lot on resiliency, which is important for military kids, because they experience a lot of different changes—such as deployments, which is a big one. We help them to understand those changes, which then helps them to become stronger,” she said. “For the Guard, what makes us different from the active duty is that our kids don’t see each other that often. We’re spread throughout the state, so it’s a challenge to get them together for events or for the monthly youth council meetings. Our council is made up of kids who are in sixth- through twelfth-grade. There’s room for 12 council members, but right now we only have three kids.”
Hence the reason organizers at Friday’s celebration focused on getting the attention of children who may not know about the National Guard’s Child and Youth Program, and its recruitment efforts.
As for the council’s purpose, “the kids come up with ideas on how to keep themselves involved, often through community service projects,” Petersen said. “Past projects have included volunteering at the veterans’ center, participating in Trunk or Treat—which the youth council plans to do again this year— and Yellow Ribbon ceremonies.
The youth program also has partnered with F. E. Warren Air Force Base for various activities, and for Military Day at Cheyenne Frontier Days, where this year they plan to set up a face-paint table, and help with the Wyoming National Guard parade float. They’ll also Spend a Day at the Wing, hosted by the Air National Guard. Other partners have included 4-H, the Boys and Girls Clubs, the YMCA, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Game and Fish, and Starbase.
Cindy Vroman-Pugh, Petersen’s right hand, and a talented coordinator who brings a wealth of experience with more than two decades as an early childhood educator, has been on the job for a few months. She said one idea allowed their youth council members “to come as their own super hero” to Friday’s celebration.
“The idea is that kids are super heroes too, for everything they have to go through, such as the deployments,” Petersen said.
Although the numbers have fluctuated over the past few years, Petersen and Vroman-Pugh said they are here in Cheyenne to serve the kids in any way possible, no matter where they are from in Wyoming, and no matter their circumstance, if their parents are deployed or not.
To learn more about the Child and Youth Program, call Petersen or Vroman-Pugh at 307-772-5018, visit the Facebook page, or for more information about the national program, download the app, ARNG CYS, which stands for Army National Guard’s Child and Youth Services.