Wanting to honor military kids for their sacrifices and courage, in 1986 Defense Secretary Casper Weinberger designated April as the Month of the Military Child. Depending on factors such as age, maturity and personality, a child’s reaction to a parent’s deployment will vary. But in any case, it is often heartbreakingly profound.  As an illustration, in an Americanism essay contest held by the American Legion Auxiliary in Peoria, a 9 year old child of a deployed parent wrote of his father’s unit: “They risk their lives for us to have freedom. They can die, but they still do it.” His fourteen year old brother wrote: “They care about our freedom so much as to miss seeing their kids grow up… To our family, freedom means putting your wants and needs aside to protect our country so we can be free.”

In recognition of the home-front sacrifices, the American Legion Auxiliary unit in Peoria sponsors a special event every April for these families. This year, the unit is sponsoring time at Peoria’s SkyZone Trampoline Park. The unit is coordinating with the Arrowhead Chick-Fil-A to donate lunch for the kids. Similar in nature to the POW/MIA table honoring missing American service members that was set up at Chick-Fil-A in November, the Arrowhead location will also have a military child’s table set up. The table symbolizes the sacrifices of military families.

The funding for this year’s event was compliments of Phoenix Paint Nite. Owned by an Afghanistan war veteran and member of the American Legion Auxiliary, Paint Nite holds “Paint and Sip” events all over the valley. Participants select a venue (typically a bar or restaurant) and painting they like. Then over the course of the event, they paint their masterpiece in a casual and fun atmosphere. Nearly 50 local residents turned out to create their own patriotic masterpiece at Post 62 where 100 percent of the proceeds went to the Auxiliary.

“We are both proud and lucky to have Dana Ramsey as a member of our unit. Her commitment to veterans and military, combined with her creativity and generosity, are making a huge difference in the lives of the people we serve,” said Sun City resident and Auxiliary President Mary Ruehs.

The Military Child’s table has the following components:

• Flowers symbolizing that “the children of our deployed may flower and flourish where they are planted.”

• A hand spade indicating that “military children may be transplanted to a new location, any place at a moment’s notice.”

• A birthday cake with unlit candles symbolizing birthdays and special events that their deployed loved ones will miss.

• A baseball glove and ball and the ballet slippers representing the games and special events that the deployed veteran will miss.

• A tablecloth and chair that are purple, which represents the colors of all the armed services blended together. The display is kid-size; no adults could sit at this table.

• A family photo depicting a child or children with their uniformed parents represent the foundation of our country’s strength of families united in their commitment to national service and willing to make any sacrifice, both at home and abroad to ensure that our flag continues to fly free.

American Legion Auxiliary members have dedicated themselves for nearly a century to meeting the needs of our nation’s veterans, military and their families both here and abroad. They volunteer millions of hours yearly, with a value of more than $2 billion. As part of the world’s largest women’s patriotic service organization, auxiliary volunteers across the country also step up to honor veterans and military through annual scholarships and with ALA Girls State programs, teaching high school juniors to be leaders grounded in patriotism and Americanism. To learn more about the auxiliary’s mission, or to volunteer, donate, or join, visit http://www.aladeptaz.org/, or email ALAdeptAZpr@gmail.com.