• Michelle Owen helps her 1-year-old son William with his bowling during Military Family Appreciation Day at the Lanes. Children registered in Child, Youth and School Services bowled one game for free at the event.

    Michelle Owen helps her 1-year-old son William...

    Michelle Owen helps her 1-year-old son William with his bowling during Military Family Appreciation Day at the Lanes. Children registered in Child, Youth and School Services bowled one game for free at the event.

  • Military spouse Jessica Whitaker helps her 2-year-old son Christian play a bean-toss game during the post's annual Military Family Appreciation Day at the Lanes on Nov. 17. More than 400 service members and family members enjoyed reduced-price bowling, games and a petting zoo as part of the festivities.

    Military spouse Jessica Whitaker helps her...

    Military spouse Jessica Whitaker helps her 2-year-old son Christian play a bean-toss game during the post's annual Military Family Appreciation Day at the Lanes on Nov. 17. More than 400 service members and family members enjoyed reduced-price bowling...

  • Sheila Vidal, wife of Maj. Brus Vidal, a public affairs instructor at the Defense Information School, and her 8-year-old daughter Coral line up for a slice of cake during Military Family Appreciation Day at the Lanes.

    Sheila Vidal, wife of Maj. Brus Vidal, a public...

    Sheila Vidal, wife of Maj. Brus Vidal, a public affairs instructor at the Defense Information School, and her 8-year-old daughter Coral line up for a slice of cake during Military Family Appreciation Day at the Lanes.

FORT GEORGE G. MEADE, Md. -- Thursday was a critical day for Coral Vidal.

"I got my first strike when my family was here," said the 8-year-old home-schooled student who bowled a free game with her mother, Sheila Vidal, at the Lanes.

Like other military families on post, the Vidals were the honored guests at the Lanes during the post's Military Family Appreciation Day celebrated Thursday.

The observance was part of the Department of Defense's -- and the nation's -- annual commemoration of Military Family Month in November.

"I think it's important," said Vidal, wife of Maj. Brus Vidal, a public affairs instructor at the Defense Information School, of the observance. "It's recognition of the spouses and the children for their sacrifice as well."

In his proclamation of Military Family Month on Nov. 1, President Barack Obama spoke to the strength of military families:

"Just as our troops embody the courage and character that make America's military the finest in the world, their family members embody the resilience and generosity that make our country strong. To these families, and to those whose service members never come home, we bear a debt that can never be fully repaid."

During the three-hour event at the Lanes, more than 400 service members and family members bowled at a reduced price and enjoyed free hot dogs, popcorn and drinks.

Children registered in Child, Youth and School Services programs bowled for free. Youngsters also participated in arts and crafts projects, face painting and a bean-toss game.

A highlight for children was the chance to interact with animals from the Party Animalz Farm located in York, Pa. Owner Brendon Kline showcased a baby llama and a sheep, goat and miniature pony along with several bunnies, guinea pigs, chickens and ducks in a small grassy area outside the Lanes.

The event was a collaboration between Army Community Service, the Fort Meade Police, CYS2, AAFES, the USO, Military OneSource and Operation Home Front.

"It's nice to be recognized as a family member," said Carol Stefula, wife of Reserve Lt. Col. John Stefula of the 450 Civilian Affairs Italian Airborne, who attended with her son, Joseph, 3.

Stefula said that in addition to supporting their loved ones in uniform and volunteering for the community, military families endure long absences from their service member parent and spouse.

This reality, said Stefula, makes Military Appreciation Day more special because family members "don't have rank or titles."

Marie Miles, Fort Meade's Army Volunteer Corps coordinator and co-chair of the event's planning committee, said that at this time of year when people express gratitude in other areas of their lives, it is important to say "thank you to military families for what you do every day."

In addition to bowling and games, representatives from the EDGE program and ACS gave away free T-shirts, canvas bags, pens and cups. Operation Home Front distributed free scented candles.

Holly Hayes, wife of Sgt. Brandon Hayes of the Marine Corps Cryptologic Support Battalion, came to the event with her husband and 14-month-old daughter Madison.

"I think it's very important," Hayes said. "I appreciate the support. It's nice when they remember the family."

Page last updated Wed November 23rd, 2011 at 00:00