By Scott A. Thornbloom, Naval Service Training Command Public Affairs
NAVAL STATION GREAT LAKES, Ill. (NNS) -- Naval Service Training Command (NSTC) and Navy Band Great Lakes are supporting and saluting local children to celebrate Month of the Military Child including a performance at Forrestal Elementary April 14.
The band has performed concerts and educational music celebrations at more than five area elementary and high schools in the area surrounding Naval Station Great Lakes throughout April.
At Forrestal Elementary, the band's brass quintet, the 'Brass Ambassadors,' performed a number of familiar songs before more than 500 students, teachers and parents during a school assembly April 14.
"It is vital to have assemblies dedicated to military families and military children. As a husband and father of two I know personally of the sacrifice that my family makes so I can serve the Navy to the best of my ability," said tuba player and Musician 3rd Class Dave Yeager. "These events may be the only opportunity in a year for these sacrifices to be recognized and appreciated."
"I was very happy and proud to participate in this event. The opportunity to both celebrate our military children and to provide support of arts education is a win-win situation," he continued.
According to the Department of Defense website, "there are 1.7 million American children and youth under 18 with a parent serving in the military and about 900,000 with one or both deployed multiple times. April is designated as the Month of the Military Child, underscoring the important role military children play in the armed forces community. The Month of the Military Child is an opportunity to recognize military children and youth for their heroism, character, courage, sacrifices and continued resilience."
During the Forrestal concert, the school also took time to recognize the entire military family.
"We serve well over 75% of the military population," said Dr. CasSandra A. Brooks, Forrestal's principal. "Students need to feel good about themselves. We recognize African-Americans during the month of February and Latino-Americans during the month of September. It's all about making children feel good about who they are and what they represent."
Brooks said she hoped the students at Forrestal would take away an understanding how "it's difficult to be a child whose parents are in the military. We understand how hard it is for change and to make new friends at a new school and especially how hard it is to adjust having parents deployed."
Aviation Ordnanceman 1st Class (AW/SW) Rudoff Liverpool, a recruit division commander at the Navy's Boot Camp, also attended the Forrestal assembly, representing Operation Military Kids (OMK).
OMK is a U.S. Army collaborative effort with American communities to support children and youth impacted by military deployments. As part of OMK, Liverpool handed out Hero Packs to eight Forrestal students who have a parent or parents currently deployed.
According to OMK, Hero Packs serve as a tangible expression of support for military families from their communities and OMK partners.
"The items that go into the packs are things that will help a child through a deployment such as stationary, blank photo albums, journals and small games. One if the most special items are hand written letters from other children thanking the military kids for their sacrifice," Liverpool said.
"Our goal each year is to reach more (military) children in hopes of making them feel more connected to their communities. A lot of time these children feel isolated is because they may not know anyone else in their situation."
The quintet performed nine songs that included a wide range of music from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's 'Eine Kleine Nacht Musik' and Gioacchino Rossini's 'William Tell Overture' to Sesame Street's 'Rubber Ducky' and the theme from 'SpongeBob SquarePants'.
"This is probably the most fun and rewarding part about my job as a musician," said trumpet player and Musician 2nd Class Kurt Zemaitaitis. "I get to represent the Navy and inspire kids and their families about music and the arts. I hope the kids learned that making music can be fun and rewarding."
Each of the 'Brass Ambassadors' also took a few minutes to explain their instruments (trumpets, trombone, tuba and French Horn) to the students.
"I was extremely pleased that the Navy Band decided to come out today. They were a joy to our students as well as our staff and special guests. It shows a sense of collaboration between our schools and the Navy. They wanted to come and help us celebrate the military child," Brooks said.
Other concerts and clinics performed by members of Navy Band Great Lakesvduring the Month of the Military Child include Wayne Thomas (Highland Park, Ill.,) Elementary and Daniel Webster (Waukegan, Ill.), April 21; Waukegan High School, April 26; and a concert for the Oak Terrace (Highland Park) Elementary after school activity program, April 29.
"I hope all the children at the assembly were inspired by our concert to at least be interested in the arts. I hope the military children came away with a great sense of pride in knowing they are appreciated by their peers, teachers, and all those who serve with their parents in defense of our nation," Yeager said.
The band also will be performing at numerous area schools throughout the rest of 2011.