CRESTVIEW—When military service members travel overseas, many of them have children back home awaiting their return.
Schools like Walker Elementary help kids who might not understand why their parent, family member or guardian is away by offering a support liaison. This person works as a counselor for students affected by deployment and provides them with family-focused activities such as card or gift box making.
One of these events is Purple Up Day, which Walker celebrated Thursday morning. Purple Up Day is a national movement in which the color purple is worn to show support and thanks for military children. Purple symbolizes all military branches by blending Army green, Marine red and Coast Guard, Navy and Air Force blues.
The event also recognizes Month of the Military Child, which is every April. Like Purple Up Day, the awareness month underscores the role children play to servicemembers.
Purple-clothed children gathered at the school’s track and observed the Crestview High School Honor Guard escort the American and Florida flags during a playing of the national anthem. Afterward, a friendly “purple contest” was held and gave the kids an opportunity to show their dance moves.
There are about 1.3 million military children in schools across the United States, according to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network. There are an additional 700,000 who haven’t reached school-age.
“These services have a huge, positive impact on the kids,” Coach Craig Yort said. Although not the liaison, he’s a retired servicemember and has been involved with events for military children at Walker for several years.
The military liaison was unable to speak to media due to the sensitive nature of their work but Yort was able to provide reference.
About 900 children attend Walker and about 150-200 of them have a parent, guardian or sibling in the military, according to Yort.
“These kids tend to band together because they are moving every two years or four years,” Yort said. “They’re also the first ones a lot of times to go up and meet other kids or help out when something needs to be done.”
The liaison travels between different schools and is available about once per week, according to Yort.
“It provides something important to all of them,” Yort said. “And when you see them making Valentine’s Day cards or stuffing boxes for Christmas—it’s really special.