The Times West Virginian

Local News

April 16, 2014

Military children honored for their sacrifices: PHOTOS

FAIRMONT — Military children were honored for their sacrifices Tuesday at the Hershel “Woody” Williams Fairmont Armed Forces Reserve Center.

The event was planned to coincide with Purple Up! Day, a nationwide initiative that encourages everyone to wear purple in honor of military children across the country.

Local organizations including the Family Resource Network, Partners in Prevention, Our Military Kids and West Virginia University Extension Services joined together to create an evening dedicated to children of military families, who sacrifice having both parents constantly at home for the country’s safety. Their recognition is well-deserved, said event coordinator Janet Shamblin.

“I think that we forget just how resilient they are,” she said. “They oftentimes are left at least a weekend every month, two weeks out of the year. Most of the kids here have been through a deployment. They’ve had to jump back after a year of mom or dad being deployed. It’s forgotten sometimes just what they go through and how hard it is for them. It’s equally hard on the kids who are left to miss mom and dad, and are expected to just continue at a normal pace.”

Children received a free T-shirt and a goodie bag, and they could bring friends with them to the armory.

“We know it’s fun for them to show off the armory facility and get in the Humvee and say, ‘This is what my mom or dad does,’ and to be able to show that they are the stars of the evening,” Shamblin said.

Shamblin reached out to all units in all areas of the military and veterans in the northern part of the state and invited their families to attend. Around 40 military children came and enjoyed face painting, a bounce house, games, video games and a puppet show. They could also sit inside a Humvee and visit with the Easter Bunny.

Pizza and other food and refreshments were also provided.

“It feels good to know that people are watching out for us,” said Caleb Carlson, a 13-year-old with a father in the military.

His father most recently served in Kuwait for a year, he said, and the family talked to him through Skype. While he got to see his father’s face and hear his voice, not everything was the same in his house, he sad.

“It’s kind of feels good that I have someone serving our country,” Caleb said. “Then, on the other hand, it’s kind of sad because our dad — sometimes he’s gone for a year or two.”

There are 6,700 military children in West Virginia, said Susan Izzo, lead child and youth program coordinator with the West Virginia National Guard.

Marion County is in the top eight counties in terms of the number of military kids, with around 600 children in the area. Shamblin said the event also means a lot to the parents, and it means a lot to see the community give them recognition they deserve.

“They see what their kids go through, and a lot of times it’s a struggle at home that others don’t see,” she said.

Email Chelsi Baker at cbaker@timeswv.com or follow her on Twitter @cbakerTWV.

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