By Ms. Daniela Vestal (TRADOC)June 19, 2008
In celebration of the 233rd birthday of the U.S. Army, Col. Edward Manning, Fort Bliss Garrison commander, and Shoshanna Johnson read Happy Birthday U.S. Army!, the Army birthday story, to children at the Main Child Development Center.
"This was the culmination of a week's worth of work by the kids to help celebrate the Army's birthday and Flag Day," said Manning. "Then we read them a story about the history of the Army and the Army family and how we all take care of each other ... and we sang 'Happy Birthday' and blew out the cake candles."
The children prepared for the event by hanging homemade banners, participating in a parade and making shirts with blue and red stars to wear to the reading.
"We had a cake shaped like a flag," said Jayla Taylor, 6. "We put stamps on (our shirts.)"
The children's book covers events from George Washington fighting for American independence to the formation of the Women's Army Corps and which animals the Army uses today. It focuses on the idea that the Army is a family and even explains the role of civilians.
"I thought it was a great story for them to hear, and they responded well," Manning said. "They understood it and it was at their level."
Johnson was impressed with the story and would have liked to have had something like it to read to her own daughter to help explain things when she was deployed.
"Especially with so many deployments now, (the Army birthday story) breaks it down so the kids can understand that Mom and Dad are just doing a job just like the people on the outside," Johnson said. "It's a little different, but it's still a job and it's very important."
Johnson, once a prisoner of war in Iraq, volunteers to work with the children at the CDC up to twice a week.
"With everything that I've gone through in Iraq ... sometimes I feel a little down and they really lift my spirits," Johnson said. "Especially to realize that some of their parents are deployed and my daughter was in that same position just a couple of years ago. If I can help them through it like those people before helped my daughter through it then I'm giving back in some way."