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Sunday, July 01, 2007

Speak Out for Military Kids reception-June 30th

By Paul Schattenberg

Representatives from Fort Sam Houston, Lackland AFB and Randolph AFB were among the approximately 150 attendees at the “Speak Out for Military Kids” reception at the DoubleTree Hotel-Airport on June 30.

They are pictured here with Ariel Alexis, 14, of Houston, Katherine Boynton, 12, of Lindale, and Marlon Moore, Jr., 16, of Houston (front left). The three youngsters were selected from 19 Speak Out for Military Kids participants to give presentations during the reception, which concluded day-long activities in support of military families.

About 150 people attended a reception in honor of military families at the Doubletree Hotel-Airport in San Antonio on the evening of June 30. The reception capped off a day of “Speak Out for Military Kids” activities for 19 young people who came to San Antonio from throughout the state for a day of training, camaraderie and appreciation.

The day-long program, which carried the theme “Honoring Our Soldiers – Supporting the Family,” was presented through Operation: Military Kids and co-sponsored by Accenture, a global management consulting and technology services company.

The young people participating in the program, ranging in age from 12-17 years old, came to San Antonio to receive presentation and speaking skills training said Marilyn Prause, specialist for military 4-H with Texas Cooperative Extension, a program partner.

“The training these young people received today helps develop their speaking skills and knowledge of issues facing military families so they can go into the community and increase public awareness of those issues,” Prause said.

A reception that followed the training to thank the participants also showcased some of the presentations they had worked on during the day.

Katherine Boynton (12) of Lindale, and Marlon Moore Jr., (16) and Ariel Alexis, (14) of Houston, were each selected to give their presentations during the reception, which was attended by several representatives from Ft. Sam Houston, Lackland AFB and Randolph AFB.

“These 19 young people have made a commitment to go out into the community and talk about the challenges military families face, especially the challenges of ‘suddenly military’ children when a parent is deployed,” Prause said.

Speak Out for Military Kids is nationwide program in which hundreds of kids from both military and civilian families work as a team to spread the word about such issues, she said. It is the keystone program of Operation: Military Kids in Texas. Youngsters who participate develop lectures, public service announcements, videos and other communications materials to present to community groups and organizations, professional associations, and legislators and other decision-makers.

Events like the one held in San Antonio give young people the opportunity to get to know one another and share their thoughts and feelings with those in a similar situation, said 17-year-old Chyrelle Palumbo of Copperas Cove.

Over the past six years, Palumbo’s father William, an Army drill sergeant, has been deployed to Korea, Kuwait and Iraq, with his most recent deployment to Ft. Jackson, South Carolina.

“I’m glad I’m here because I want to help other people understand what kids go through when there’s a deployment,” Palumbo said. “A lot of us don’t have anyone to talk to and this gives us a chance to talk to each other and to learn how to get our message out to other people so they can understand what we’re going through.”

Palumbo has been involved in the Speak Out for Military Kids program in Texas since its inception in 2004. She was a keynote presenter at the National Army Reserves Family Program Conference in San Diego in 2005.

“I hope the Speak Out for Military Kids program will expand so we can have more kids out there talking to people about how a deployment affects us and the way we feel,” she said.

“This program is great for those children of military families, especially those who are separated from those support services typically provided on base,” said retired U.S, Air Force Col. Steve Maurmann, an Accenture executive who lives in New Braunfels. “We’re thrilled to be sponsoring it, because our company is a lot like the military in that we want to give back to the community. We have about 650 employees in the San Antonio area, and we encourage them to become involved in volunteer activities like Speak Out for Military Kids.”

Maurmann said listening to the concerns voiced by the young people participating in the San Antonio program reminded him of his own deployment to Qatar and how his wife and children were affected by his leaving.

“This program gives kids a chance to talk about those ‘stressors’ they encounter when a parent leaves for a long period of time,” he said.

Some of those stressors may include loneliness, geographic isolation and having to make new friends or attend a new school,” Prause added.

Operation: Military Kids is sponsored by Army Child and Youth Services in cooperation with 4-H, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, the Military Child Coalition, the American Legion and other organizations. It has been implemented in Texas and 35 other states. As one of the pilot states for the program, Texas has been serving the needs of children of military families for the past three years.

More information on Operation: Military Kids and the Speak Out for Military Kids program can be found at .

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