Each year in April, families, communities and people of all stripes come together to celebrate military children and applaud them for surmounting unique challenges.

The Department of Defense Education Activity (DODEA) commemorates this month with its "Purple Up!" campaign, in which people wear and display the color purple to show support for the children of soldiers. The military chose this color with the reasoning that purple combines each branch's colors into one, since the Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard all use shades of blue, the Army uses green and the Marines use red. 

Month of the Military Child: A backstory

Established by former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger in 1986, the Month of the Military Child has since become an annual tradition for military families deployed worldwide. More than 1.7 million total force-dependent children across the globe face obstacles unlike most others their age. Wearing purple helps let them know you care.

"The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.""The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement."

While the entire month of April is set aside to celebrate children of soldiers, the military also designates a single day during the month as "Purple Up! For Military Kids" Day. This typically falls halfway through the month, at or around April 15 each year. 

Many military-related private organizations put a special emphasis on the programs they administer and provide downloadable toolkits and other resources for military children and families.

Additionally, participating Exchange restaurants worldwide will often offer free treats or other specials for any child who wears purple during the month.

How you can Purple Up! this April

Although schools and workplaces are not closed for Purple Up! Day, there are still plenty of creative ways to observe this important occasion. Many military bases and communities celebrate with special events, such as contests, parades, fairs and seminars all centered around the central message of supporting military children.

In addition to wearing purple throughout the month, anyone not currently stationed at a military base can consider trying some of these activities to observe the Month of the Military Child:

  • Work with local schools, governments, businesses and organizations to raise awareness of this observance.
  • Spread the word by using the #purpleup hashtag on social media or putting up purple flyers in community centers.
  • Write a letter to your local newspaper that recognizes and celebrates military children.
  • Create an award, or use one created by Blue Star Families, to let a military child know that they're awesome.
  • Print out and pass around Purple Up! labels from the Military Child Education Coalition.

If you're already involved with the local schools and organizations, consider holding an award ceremony for military children. Be sure to include recognition of military children during morning announcements and have members or students tie purple ribbons around trees outside.

For more ways to celebrate our country's youngest heroes, check out these 50 additional ideas from the Military Child Education Coalition.