By Mark Walker
Lacie Clark is all too familiar with the challenges faced by children of active-duty members of the military.
Clark and her husband, U.S. Air Force Technical Sgt. Jacob Clark, recently returned to Fairchild Air Force Base near Spokane following a deployment to England.
The couple and their children have also spent time at bases in Italy and Montana, forcing the family to relocate frequently.
“With frequent moves, children learn to adapt to having to start over in a new place,” Lacie Clark said. “But many also struggle to feel secure, and military families have to work through those issues.”
Clark, a recent addition to the Red Cross Service to Armed Forces, is part of a cadre of volunteers working to salute military children this month.
April is recognized as the Month of the Military Child by the Department of Defense. The Red Cross has several programs taking place, including packaging goody and activity bags for distribution to kids on Washington’s military installations. They include coloring sheets and dog tags for younger kids, while those for teens include a Red Cross flashlight.
The 110 bags being distributed at Fairchild are going to elementary-aged kids and teenagers.
Across the state, the Red Cross volunteer Myra Rintamaki is leading the effort to distribute 350 additional bags to military kids at Joint Base Lewis McChord near Tacoma, and at naval bases in Everett, Oak Harbor and Kitsap County.
“We’re really excited to be supporting military children,” said Lauren Snow, Service to the Armed Forces program manager at Joint Base Lewis McChord. “We have a big team of volunteers helping with the effort here.”
Washington state is home to approximately 136,000 active-duty troops, roughly 40 percent of whom have children. There are about 1.2 million military children nationwide.
Those children and their parents move an average three times more often than their civilian counterparts.
Clark said it’s important for parents to help their children cope with frequent relocations.
“We like to compare it to a dandelion,” she said. “They often don’t have deep roots, but they can flourish anywhere.”
Another military spouse, Jennifer Butterfield, said moving around has been largely positive for her three kids, but also has a downside.
“Thankfully, our kids inherited our sense of adventure and they love to see and explore new places,” Butterfield said. “But they miss spending time with extended family, and have to start over with new friends and schools every couple of years.”
While her husband has deployed on several occasions during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the next member of the Clark family to deploy may well be Lacie. She is a Red Cross mobile staff member — if a local unit is ordered to deploy, she will accompany those troops.
The Red Cross as a variety of support services and information to help families of deploying or deployed troops, including skill-building techniques to help respond to the challenges of deployment cycles.
To find out more about the services offered, or to volunteer as part of Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces, visit the website redcross.org.