Nearly 2 million American kids have a parent serving in the U.S. military. In April, the Month of the Military Child, we salute every one of them.Military bases around the world hold special ceremonies for military children during this time. On April 10, TFK Kid Reporter Clara Wicoff attended the Month of the Military Child Festival in Fort Riley, Kansas.
"This is an opportunity for Fort Riley to honor the sacrifices made daily by our soldiers' families," says Fort Riley Garrison Commander Colonel Kevin Brown.
Time for Fun
April 10 began with a festival for kids of all ages. Activities included face-painting, games and a Bullying Prevention play starring Spider-Man.
Sonya Douglas is the Child and Youth Services Coordinator at Fort Riley. "The importance of the festival is to give military families the opportunity to come out and have fun," she says.
Myra Rivera, 11, was one of the 2,800 kids who attended the festival. Her father is in Iraq on his third deployment. They keep in touch through Skype, an Internet program that allows people to talk and see each other on their computer screens.
"The best thing about being a military kid is that you know your father is fighting for your country," Myra told TFK. "But it's hard not having him around."
A Concert for the Families
The highlight of the day for many was a concert given by actor Gary Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band. The band is named after Sinise's role in the movie Forrest Gump. They played songs including "Chicken Fried" by the Zac Brown Band, "Don't Stop Believing" by Journey, and "Stuck Like Glue" by Sugarland.
This was Sinise's third trip to Fort Riley with the USO, a nonprofit organization founded in 1941 with a mission to lift the spirits of the troops and their families.
"I like to return to the bases as often as I can so that the troops know that we are grateful for what they do," Sinise told TFK. "These are our defenders and they deserve our support".
Remembering Fallen Soldiers
The most moving part of the Month of the Military Child Festival is the Ceremony of Remembrance. Fourteen children of fallen soldiers were honored. They each received a medallion inscribed with the words "Fort Riley Remembers."
Ryan Mackey, 13, was one of the recipients. He attended the ceremony in remembrance of his father, Staff Sergeant Bryant Mackey. "It gets easier as time goes by," Ryan said of his father's death. "But there were days when I couldn't find the strength to get out of bed."
Take time today, and throughout the year, to think about the sacrifices that military children, including Myra and Ryan, make every day.