2018-05-04 / Front Page

MONTH OF MILITARY CHILD

Freedom Park celebrates ‘nation’s heroes’
Laura Levering
Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office

Local TV meteorologist Jay Jefferies gets acquainted with Freedom Park School fourth-grader Alijah Johnson, writer of a prize-winning essay on the theme of “Proud to Be Me,” during the school’s annual “Purple Up” assembly. Bill Bengtson / Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office Local TV meteorologist Jay Jefferies gets acquainted with Freedom Park School fourth-grader Alijah Johnson, writer of a prize-winning essay on the theme of “Proud to Be Me,” during the school’s annual “Purple Up” assembly. Bill Bengtson / Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office If anyone understands challenges associated with military life, it is the military child.

Fort Gordon’s Freedom Park School military children were celebrated during the school’s annual Month of the Military Child “Purple Up” program Monday in the school gymnasium.

Students were treated to more than an hour of entertainment that included performances by the Paine College chorus, motivational talks, essay readings by student essay contest winners, and lots of accolades.

Local celebrity Jay Jefferies, WFXG Fox 54 TV personality and meteorologist, served as the program’s master of ceremonies. This year’s theme was “Brave Hearts and Resilient Souls.”

Dr. Titania Singh, Freedom Park principal, opened the program saying, “Here at Freedom Park we are very, very proud of who we are.”

Month of the Military Child was established in 1986 by then-Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger. The color purple represents a combination of all branches and colors of the military: Army green, Air Force blue, Marine red, Navy blue, and Coast Guard blue.

Guest speaker, Fort Gordon Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Charlie Bryant Jr., offered a different perspective on the color. Often associated with royalty, Bryant told students it is the first thing that comes to mind when he thinks of purple.

“So to me, to you, your teachers, and especially to your parents – all of you kids sitting here today are royalty,” Bryant said.

As the parent of three children who were raised in the military, Bryant understands the challenges of being a military child. His youngest son, now 16, was born at Fort Gordon and has lived multiple places including Korea, Germany, and Louisiana.

Each move brought forth new challenges such as leaving behind friends and familiar places, spending extended time away from family due to deployment or training, and having to adapt to new environments.

“I don’t need to know you personally to know that many of you have been through a lot of PCS moves from school to school experiencing a lot of change that you might not have wanted and that you had to be strong when you might not have wanted to be,” Bryant said. “But you had to, and here you stronger than ever, so be proud to be you.”

Bryant shared examples of celebrities who are part of the “royal military family” because they were military children just like them. Top NBA player Shaquille O’Neal’s father had a career in the Army, actress Jessica Alba’s father was in the Air Force, and comedian Martin Lawrence’s father was in the Army, just to name a few. And just like them, they endured many of the same challenges – and ultimately went on to lead very successful lives.

“I would like to think that their childhood in the military helped make them strong and confident; that their adventures instilled in them curiosity about the world instead of fear and allowed them to follow and achieve their dreams,” Bryant said. “You, too, can follow their footsteps if you choose.”

Recognizing people who have helped shape the military child, Singh closed by thanking teachers for the critical role they play in the military child’s life.

“As those students are moving around the country and around our nation, it is you who greet them when they come into a new school in March and school is over in May,” Singh said. “You’re the one who greets them at the door ... and makes sure that they feel comfortable in a new environment. And you’re that same person who sends them away with tears in your eyes but holding them back because you want to be strong and you want them to know everything is going to be OK.”

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