Tampa, Florida -- When you think of military heroes, the men and women on the front lines probably come first to mind. But there are heroes here on the homefront and a lot of them are very young.
April has been designated the Month of the Military Child--the time to celebrate the young, unsung heroes. MacDill Air Force Base kicked off the month on April 2 with special parade--featuring the base Honor Guard, fire trucks and dozens of children marching through the streets of the base.
"We want to celebrate military children and families," said Gail Mouse, director of the Child Development Center #3 on base. "We want to recognize the special challenges and sacrifices that military children make. They're a vital part of our community."
And the military community celebrates--and educates--its youngest heroes every day at the Child Development Center on base. They like to think of it as a home away from home for children from six weeks to five years old. The center also offers after-school programs for older children. Anyone working on base, military or civilian, can send their children to the CDC and know they are getting good care.
Karen Parente is a teacher at the Child Development Center and has a two-year-old daughter enrolled. Her husband is home right now, but he's been deployed six times. She knows that military children learn to lean on each other.
"It's very important for them to feel that they have another friend going through the same thing--that they can sort of talk it out with," said Parente. "Or if they both miss their parents, sometimes we'll have drawing sessions and create care packages for one parent and everybody will help with that parent. And we'll make another big package for another parent. they like to sort of help each other."
The staff of the CDC work to make sure parents who are deployed never feel out of touch.
"We'll send them pictures overseas so they can see what the child is doing here," said Sandra Oakley, director of CDC #2. "We asked them to read stories and send them back to us so we can record it and they can hear the voices of their parents."
The life of a military child--out littlest heroes--isn't always easy, but MacDill's Child Development Center tries to make it easier.
A third Child Development Center will be opening soon, meaning more room for more children. All of the center are part of the Florida VPK program and are fully accredited. Click here to learn more about the centers and to fill out an application.