JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska --
“Blork” and “bluurf” are definitely not words, but they were part of the base commander’s vocabulary, April 8, 2019, at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.
In honor of The Month of the Military Child, U.S. Air Force Col. Patricia Csànk, JBER and 673d Air Base Wing commander, visited the Denali Child Development Center to read to some of the children. Of the selection of four books, the kids elected to read “The Book With No Pictures,” by B.J. Novak, knowing all too well what this piece of literature would have Csànk reading aloud.
The rules of the book state: “Everything the words say, the person reading the book has to say… no matter what.” What ensued was a string of animal sounds, self-effacing insults, and praise for the children listening to Csànk read — all courtesy of Novak’s prose.
As per the kid’s expectations, they loved it. They couldn’t refrain from getting closer and becoming more animated with every silly sound Csànk had to make.
Visitors at the CDCs on base are commonplace, and each month has a different theme that the visitors will entertain.
“In March, the CDC highlights literacy, so different commanders and volunteers will come together and want to read to the children,” said Stephanie Montoya, Denali CDC director. “This was Csànk’s time where she came in to highlight that theme and read to children.”
According to the Department of Defense, there are currently 1.7 million children of active-duty members worldwide and the average military child will move six to nine times by the end of high school. The children have endured repeated challenges, through multiple deployments — making new friends, getting to know new teachers, and learning about different environments.
April is an important month for CDCs all across the Department of Defense; it’s a time to give military children the attention they deserve.
“A lot of the times we tend to focus on the parent and the child gets lost in the mix,” Montoya said. “So this is a special time to highlight them and support them through all their transitions that they do for us. That's why this month is so important, so it was really nice to see Csànk come and support the children.”
The volunteers visiting the children at the CDC are only part of the diverse roster of events that Montoya has planned for April.
“One of the things we're doing this month is having a divorce class for the parents,” Montoya said. “Divorce is something that happens, but once it has happened, what should you do to support the child? How should you look for signs of how they may be feeling, and if they're acting out, how can you help them? So we’re helping the parents learn how to support the child.”
Military children will face obstacles and have experiences most children of non-military parents will not have, so it’s important that they are in a community that they can relate to.
“A lot of these children are going to get ready to transition to kindergarten, and they're going to have those military friends that they were able to transition with,” Montoya said. “It's a small little community, but we're close. We take care of each other because we relate to one another.”
Many of these children will experience long stints of time without a parent, whether they are deployed, temporary duty or on an unaccompanied tour, so the volunteers who visit the kids play an important role in their lives.
“It's really nice because the children get to see people outside of the normal mom-and-dad role coming in to visit them.”
While the children enjoy the time with the volunteers, the visitor usually leaves content as well.
“That was good for the soul,” Csànk said while gathering her things to leave.
Month of the Military Child is vital to the Department of Defense, as the happy children of service members help maintain the resilience of their parents, to properly complete the mission.