By Alex McVeigh, Pentagram Staff WriterJuly 16, 2008
FORT MYER, Va. (Army News Service, July 17, 2008) -- While the Department of Defense's largest child care facility has been used for the last week or two by the children, it wasn't official until Tuesday, when Fort Myer hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Attended by VIPs from all over the National Capital Region, as well as students from the new facility, the ceremony reinforced the Military District of Washington's commitment to providing for its Families.
A quartet from the U.S. Army Band started things off by playing a patriotic medley including "God Bless the U.S.A." and "Grand Old Flag." Attendees gathered under the shade of the large tent to escape the sun and get a good view of the ribbon-cutting.
Garrison commander Col. Laura J. Richardson started off with a summary of the services offered by the new building.
"This new Child Development Center is the largest worldwide ... and is 50,000 square feet with three wings, 28 rooms, three playgrounds and a multi-purpose room. The center has space for 438 children."
The center is the result of many different entities throughout the Army, Installation Management Command and the FMMC Garrison Staff.
"This project is the culmination of several teams working together as one to achieve the same goal," she said. "[The staff] has worked tirelessly since the first of July, every day including weekends, to make this move and this grand opening a seamless transition for everybody."
Maj. Gen. Richard J. Rowe Jr., commanding general, Joint Force Headquarters National Capital Region and the Military District of Washington, also spoke about the performance of the staff.
"The facility is just a shell. What's important is what goes inside it, and those caregivers make the big difference, and they will make this facility into what it is going to be for these children we get to serve," he said.
As everyone from the Directorate of Public Works and the Army Corps of Engineers were thanked, the children were very quiet, a fact that was noticed by Gen. Richard A. Cody, Army vice chief of staff.
"Children, you're much more disciplined and quiet than the Army staff," Cody said, "they usually talk through all of my briefings."
The audience (especially the Soldiers present) laughed at this.
"I came here to say thank you to everyone who has made possible this tangible symbol of our commitment, not just to our Soldiers, but to our Soldiers' Families," Cody said. "All of us are committed to providing a quality of life for our Army Families that is equal to the quality of the service of the Soldier on the battlefield or the homefront."
The final speaker was the Honorable Nelson M. Ford, acting under secretary of the Army. He spoke highly of the MDW's commitment to their Families, and described how the DoD is dedicated to providing the same commitment to Soldiers across the nation.
"It's a real testament to the Military District of Washington that they have created this wonderful location," he said. "Although we recruit Soldiers, we retain Families. This facility is really a piece of our commitment to Soldiers and their Families."
After the speeches concluded, the ribbon was cut by Richardson, Rowe, Cody, Nelson and several military parents and their children.
The children of the CDC added a special touch to the conclusion of the ceremony, blowing bubbles into the air in unison, which were taken quickly away by the wind.
As excited as the MDW's senior staff was about the new facility, the children are the ones that actually get to use it, and they were even more excited.
"The old place had some good memories," said Jahdorna Grant, 11, "but this place is a lot of fun. We've got a lot more space to play in."
Guests were invited to take a tour of the new child care center after the ceremony, and the positive feelings seemed to come from everywhere. As children ran around to different play areas, the guests marveled at the size of the new multi-purpose room.
Parents who attended the ribbon-cutting were also impressed by the new space for their children.
"It's fabulous. It's a great new facility with new equipment and a new playground, [compared with the other CDC building], it's like night and day," said Michelle Mehta, mother of two-year-old Sarah.
While the official part may be over, the new CDC is just beginning its journey. Whether at the camp in the summer or the regular year-round programs, the facility is sure to get its share of use.
"Out of 300 million Americans today, less than one percent are defending our freedom, our prosperity and our way of life," said Cody, echoing the sentiment of all present.
"Even our children serve in their own way. They share their mothers and fathers with all of America, to keep us all safe."