PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. - Providing support for families of deployed service members is not an easy task, yet the Picatinny community continues to excel in bringing families together in their time of need.

Picatinny held the annual "America's Day for Kids" picnic here August 1, but this year there were some very special guests. Along with the 177 kids that were already here as part of a summer camp program, two bus loads of New Jersey National Guard family members celebrated the day as well.

Pat McKenna, Child and Youth Services Coordinator said, "This is the first time all these kids have gotten together since their parents and loved ones have deployed."

The theme for this year's event was "The Boardwalk." As some children swarmed to the pool for a quick swim and others congregated at the trailers full of games and prizes donated by Kohl's Department stores it felt like a day at the beach.

Along with the pool and games, children also played in the inflatable jungle gyms and jump-o-lenes while other family members feasted on some of the barbeque food items that were prepared.

Amanda Balas, the State Youth Coordinator for the New Jersey National Guard, said coordination for this event began months before the Guard unit deployed.

"I'm extremely honored to help put this together. Some of the families here today have never gone through a deployment while others have. By bringing them together they can communicate their concerns with one another and make lasting friendships," Balas said.

Before the picnic began, the buses drove around the installation, which allowed NJNG family members to learn about services they may not have been aware of such as the commissary, Army Community Services, family housing, the Frog Falls water-park and golf course.

"Army leadership understands that if you want to keep men and women in the Army you have to help support their families" said Garrison Commander, Lt. Col. John P. Stack.

Family members were very thankful that such an event was held. Many did not even know about the services that Picatinny Arsenal provides for service members and their families.

Kiera Pinnero whose husband is Pfc. David Pinerro said, "It's nice to see something other than Ft. Dix. It's definitely more convenient for me to use the commissary here than to drive an hour and a half."

So as the children played and parents, guardians and other family members ate and received much needed information, the service members continue to train at Fort Bliss, Texas and will deploy to Iraq next month.

Arlene Parsons who works with Pat McKenna as the Child and Youth Facility Director left family members with an open ended question. "While New Jersey National Guard members are on active duty their family members are entitled to use our facilities....So why not use them'"

Page last updated Tue August 5th, 2008 at 14:15