Military children quite often face challenges their peers seldom do. They’re uprooted continuously as they follow a parent or guardian’s military career across the country.
"Sometimes a parent is gone on a six-month deployment (overseas). They’re away from extended family. They’re always moving between bases and they move to a different school constantly," said Shannon Chapman, youth programs co-ordinator for the Shilo Military Family Resource Centre.
That’s why the TEAL-UP campaign was launched at two schools at Canadian Forces Base Shilo, the first base in Canada to adopt the day, where the student population, incidentally, consists of roughly 50 per cent military kids.
Similar to the special T-shirt day, like the anti-bullying campaign, where participants wear a pink T-shirt, the TEAL-UP T-shirt campaign is in recognition of the sacrifices military children make during their school careers to support their parents or guardian’s military careers.
In some ways, military children are like dandelions, Chapman said.
"They can put down roots almost anywhere. They are impossible to destroy. They adapt easily and can survive nearly anywhere. Military children bloom everywhere the wind carries them and they stand ready to fly into the breezes to take them into new adventures, new lands, and new friends."
A dandelion with its seeds caught on the wind sits on the front of every T-shirt.
The campaign started after the Shilo MFRC Youth Program heads researched new and innovative ways to celebrate the Month of the Military Child.
"In the process, we came across ‘Purple Up’ a popular celebration for recognizing how resilient military children are in the U.S.," Chapman said. Teal is the colour that comes from combining the blue from the Canadian air force, green from the army, blue and white from the navy.
Originally the brainchild of Caspar Weinberger, the former U.S. Defense Secretary, Month of the Military Child was first established in 1986. While celebrated in the U.S extensively, it has been gaining traction in Canada, according to Chapman.
"Unlike most children, military families are on the move, with children having to leave schools, activities and friends behind," she said. "Family members can also be absent for long periods of time for deployments and training exercises. Despite all challenges, military children continue to flourish and succeed. This resilience deserves a moment of reflection to honour all children of the military community."
The $15 T-shirt fee just covered the cost of the almost 400 T-shirts purchased. Between École La Source and O’Kelly School on base, almost 400 students from six to 18 and from kindergarten to grade 12 participated. COVID-friendly presentations at both schools were made by Chapman and Stephanie Laviolette, youth programs facilitator at the MFRC.
Military families in Canada and abroad included 81,400 children under the age of 18, according to Lynda Manser’s 2017 report, "State of Military Families in Canada."
In CFB Shilo, there were 904 children out of the 2,752 military members and families.
An estimated 10,000 military families are relocated through postings, while 8,000 move to new provinces, accounting for one-quarter of all regular forces military members, according to Vanier Institute of the Family figures from 2018.
There are 220 military children attending school in Shilo. The daycare on base has approximately 70 military children.
Link for Dandelion Poem: militarybratlife.wordpress.com/category/poems