Fort Bragg youth celebrate Army's birthday in patriot spirit

Fort Bragg Garrison Public Affairs Office
Story by Sheri Crowe

Date: 06.13.2008
Posted: 06.18.2008 11:02
News ID: 20602
Army's 233 Birthday

By Sheri L. Crowe
Fort Bragg Public Affairs Office

FORT BRAGG, N.C. -- Dressed in red, white and blue Friday were 160 youth at Fort Bragg's Wonderful World of Kids to celebrate the Army's 233rd birthday. The event at WWK was one of many activities that took place on post throughout the week leading up to the Army's birthday Saturday.

The WWK birthday celebration was also a way for children enrolled in Rodriguez and WWK School Age Services programs to show their appreciation to Fort Bragg officials for taking priority care of them through the Army Family Covenant. The covenant was signed last November, where Fort Bragg leadership pledged to provide the best quality of life possible for its family members.

"We try to celebrate as much as possible all types of things ... so we can educate the children ... ," said Jeannie Williams, Fort Bragg School Age Services administrator and the event coordinator. "Although we are an after school program, we learn by doing fun things. With the Army's birthday, Army Family Covenant, deployments and with the focus on the Army, it was a great way to experience a celebration for the children."

Since many of the children's parents are deployed she said this was a great way to uplift their spirits. "So, taking care of the Army's own you become Army strong," said Williams.

"It (the celebration) was wonderful," said Karen Miller, chief of Fort Bragg's Child and Youth Services. "To be able to do it (Army birthday celebration) in such a fun and upbeat way and make it a party for the children, was worth it. They enjoyed it so much I think we're going to make it an annual thing."

The ceremony included a student march inside the gymnasium where they wore party hats, waved American flags and carried handmade birthday candles, a reading of the Army's newest book "Happy Birthday U.S. Army," the children singing happy birthday and a cake cutting.

Williams said the children looked forward to the Army birthday celebration all week. They researched the history of Army so they could write stories and draw pictures on topics ranging from what the Army means to them to what they like about the Army, for an exhibit they put together in the gymnasium, she said. They also made 233 paper candles and party hats and decorated the entire WWK facility in red/white and blue.

"They did all this after school and put a lot of work into it." said Williams. "They even practiced on marching and cadence."

Fort Bragg family member Michelle Tarchinski volunteered to read the Army book by Army Youth Services that was published to help children understand Army history and their role in the greater Army family. "I thought it would be a fun thing to do (reading the book to the kids) during the birthday celebration," said Tarchinski, whose husband is assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division and has a child enrolled in Fort Bragg's SAS program. "Plus, I brought along my youngest son so he could have some fun, too."

According to Tom McCollum, Fort Bragg's public affairs officer, sharing the Army's birthday celebration with Army children helps them to better understand the significant Army contributions their parents make. "... Throughout our history, our Army families have been an integral part of the Army's history," said McCollum.

Fifth grade students Michael Hueitt, 9, and Alexis Floyd, 10, from Benjamin Martin Elementary School in Fayetteville, said they enjoyed participating.

"It was fun today," said Hueitt. "I liked the (Army) story and the cake."

"I liked the lady who read the book," said Floyd. "She made the story interesting."

Not only was this a great way to celebrate the Army's birthday with the Fort Bragg community, but also a chance to showcase the quality of childcare and the investments made in child development centers and youth programs on Fort Bragg, said McCollum. He said Fort Bragg has made improvements in its childcare facilities in the past few years and will increase its capacity by more than 1,600 in the next three years.

"Fort Bragg has an aggressive child and youth services construction program that has resulted in approved plans for construction projects to build new or expand existing Army childcare facilities in 2008 to 2013," said McCollum. "

Miller said their childcare building program has been accelerated where they know they'll have five new buildings started within a year and a half.

Other steps made to improve childcare on post of more than 51,000 Soldiers have included increased childcare hours and fees reduced or eliminated for many of Fort Bragg's families.

"We here at Fort Bragg take care of our dependent children," said Miller. "We are continually improving on the support and services we provide at our child development centers and throughout our many child and youth programs."

"We know we have the highest quality programs in the nation," said Miller. "... And we have the quality and safety on post (for families)."