Story and photos by
Karen A. Iwamoto
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS — Federal firefighters sounded the fire truck’s horn, the 25th Infantry Division Band struck up the opening chords, and toddlers and preschoolers filled the air with squeals and laughter as they poured out of the Child Development Center, here.
The 2017 Child Abuse Prevention Month parade on March 29 was off to a euphonic start.
Month of the Military Child
This annual celebration of the Army community’s children is just one of many events taking place at installations around the world to kick off the Month of the Military Child and to reaffirm the Army’s commitment to preventing child abuse and neglect.
Col. Stephen Dawson, commander of U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii, was there, along with Suzanne King, director of USAG-HI’s Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, both doling out high-fives and smiles to the children participating in the parade.
They may have been slightly eclipsed by FMWR staffers dressed up as popular superheroes and by McGruff the Crime Dog, who collected hugs and friendly pats from the children as the parade made its way around the parking lot.
Maj. Gen. Christopher Cavoli, commander of the 25th Infantry Division and U.S. Army Hawaii, also greeted children, and praised their caregivers during his keynote address, which he delivered after signing the Child Abuse Prevention Proclamation.
“The job of caregiver is not easy, and the job of caregiver is not always well-rewarded,” he said. “But its importance is obvious when you look outside today and you see the treasures that we put in your hands. And we are rewarded by seeing you holding shade over the children’s heads, by seeing you holding the children and exemplifying this year’s theme, which is that children thrive in safe, stable and nurturing homes.
“I love the Army. I love a whole bunch of things, but man, I love my two sons,” he continued. “They are the future of my family. They are the future of our country. These children are the future of our country. These children carry inside them all of our fondest hopes for the future. It’s our job to get them there safe, sound, healthy and strong.”
Virginia Garrido, facilities director with Child Youth & School Services program and the Child Development Center, said she and her staff were grateful to be able to give back to the Soldiers and their families for their dedication and sacrifice.
“If we are able to ensure that their children are cared for and taught in a safe and productive environment, this allows the Soldiers/parents the piece of mind to carry out their mission,” she said. “To many of our staff, this is not a job, but a vocation, and to see the happy faces of the parents and children, day in and day out, is the greatest reward of all.”
After the parade, children gathered to add their signatures to Cavoli’s on the proclamation and headed over to the front lawn for the “planting” of a pinwheel garden. The pinwheels serve as a symbol for child abuse prevention and as a reflection of hope for the health and safety of children everywhere.
The event wrapped up with a Month of the Military Child appreciation luncheon inside the Child Development Center. Parents were invited to dine with their children.
“I really enjoyed it,” said Monika Sahnow, an Army spouse and retired Soldier, who was dining with her 5-year-old son Jayden, about the events. “Especially seeing the general there, and hearing what he said, that was very inspiring, and his being here showed that he really cares.”
Maureen Oda, a Family Advocacy Program specialist with Army Community Service, which planned the event in collaboration with the Child Youth & School Services (CYS) program and the Child Development Center, said she hopes attendees left with a renewed awareness and a desire to prevent child neglect and abuse.
“It takes a community effort to prevent child neglect or abuse,” she said, “and we are grateful for our community members, parents and local law enforcement who came out to support our prevention efforts.”
Other events to celebrate military children in April include these:
- Month of the Military Child Scavenger Hunt at Sgt. Yano Library, Schofield Barracks.
Throughout the month of April, during the library’s regular business hours, 11 a.m.-8 p.m., Monday and Tuesday; 11 a.m.-6 p.m., Wednesday-Saturday; closed on Sundays. Young readers who find all of the clues win a prize while supplies last.
- Keiki Obstacle Course at Fun Fest from 9 a.m.-2 p.m., April 15, at Weyend Field, Schofield Barracks
- PT in the Gym from 3:30-4:15 p.m., April 25, at the Aliamanu Military Reservation Physical Fitness Center.