A special seat at the table: Honoring and supporting military children

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(BPT) - Bravery in the face of adversity. Resiliency during unforeseen challenges. Growing wherever you are planted. These are traits of the servicemembers who protect our country every day, but the same patience and optimism take root in the children of our military members. Through every hasty relocation and birthday phone call to a faraway parent, military children persevere during challenges that may be completely unfamiliar to their peers. Every April, during the Month of the Military Child, we show our support for military children and reflect on the sacrifices they continually must make.

The American Legion Auxiliary (ALA) is an organization made up of male and female spouses, grandmothers, mothers, sisters, and direct and adopted female descendants of members of The American Legion. Some are veterans themselves. One special way the ALA celebrates the Month of the Military Child is with the Military Child’s Table Setting Ceremony. Junior members of the ALA and younger Sons of The American Legion participate in this event to honor the resilience of their friends and classmates who have parents in the military.

Inspired by the POW/MIA remembrance table ceremony, the Military Child’s Table Setting Ceremony includes:

  • A potted plant to symbolize that a military child can flourish where they are planted
  • A hand spade to recognize that military children may be relocated at a moment’s notice
  • A collection of childhood keepsakes like a birthday hat and unlit candles, a baseball and glove and ballet slippers to represent special occasions that a servicemember may miss in their child’s life
  • A family photo shows the child with their uniformed parent to remind us of the strength of our country and the steadfast love of a family in trying times
  • The American flag unites all military families in their commitment to national service, at home or away

ALA Junior members (those under 17 years old) perform this ceremony as a tribute to their peers who are military children. As the kids set the table with these symbolic tokens of bravery, love and sacrifice, they read from a ceremonial script that guides participants through the meaning of each item and allows time for quiet reflection. This ceremony is performed by ALA and American Legion members, but if you’d like to get involved, check out your local ALA unit.

All are invited to recognize military children by participating in Purple Up! Day for Military Kids on April 15. Purple symbolizes the combined colors of each military branch, showing unified solidarity for military children with parents in any branch of the military. On Purple Up! Day, wear purple in support of military children everywhere and post on your social media about what the Month of the Military Child means to you.

As part of its ongoing support of military children, the ALA also sponsors the Children of Warriors National Presidents’ Scholarship, which offers financial assistance to 15 military children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren across the country every year. Visit the Scholarships page on the ALA website for more information.

As our servicemembers defend our freedom at home and overseas, let’s ensure that we show up for the children who remain strong throughout the changes and uncertainty that often come with being a military child. If you’d like to explore new ways to engage with military families and support people in your community who have family members in the military, visit www.ALAforVeterans.org to learn how you can get involved with your local ALA unit.