Tuesday, Apr 17, 2012
On Sunday, April 1st, over a hundred local military families gathered in Prince William Forest Park to join the “Celebration of the Military Child Outdoors.” The event aimed to highlight the need to bring military kids into the great outdoors to relieve stress and bring families back together post-deployment.
All park visitors were treated to a fee free day in the park to honor April as the Month of the Military Child. Director Jarvis spoke to the families at the event, echoing the long tradition of partnership between the National Park Service and the military. Colonel Daniel Choike, base commander at Marine Corps Base Quantico, which is located next to the park, also spoke at the event, reflecting on the impact of his 30 years of military service on his family and recognizing the need to do more for our military kids.
The kids and their families spent the afternoon connecting with nature by hiking, learning to pitch tents, kayaking or casting fly fishing lines, posing for pictures with life-size tigers and polar bears, watching invertebrates, identifying trees, meeting the birds from the Virginia Raptor Conservatory, and playing fun nature games.
Military children face many challenges that cause greater stress in their lives. A 2010 study found that children of deployed parents are much more likely to suffer from stress disorders and to have behavioral problems. The absence of a deployed parent or return of a parent who has returned physically or mentally changed from multiple deployments often places our nation’s children in new and more ‘adult’ roles at home. Repeated moves to new places or countries, coupled with inconsistent teaching curriculums in new places and the stress of worrying for a parent’s safety, all impact military children in unique ways.
Celebration of the Military Child Outdoors recognized that national parks can help relieve some of this stress and reminded us all that military kids serve too.
The event was sponsored by the Sierra Club Mission Outdoors: Military Family and Veterans Initiative, partnering with the Outdoor Alliance for Kids, Armed Services YMCA, Blue Star Families, National Military Family Association, and the National Park Service.