FORT RILEY, Kan. -- The Custer Hill Bowling Alley hosted the 2018 Military Spouses Appreciation Day put on by Army Community Service May 11. For a brief time, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Fort Riley spouses were able to forget about things at home or on post to be pampered and taken care of while their children were given an area to play in without worries.

Nearly 400 spouses showed up for the event that featured giveaways, refreshments, cake, free bowling and a mini-makeover by the students and faculty from Bellus Academy in Manhattan.

"Military spouses serve too," said ACS Director Michelle Durgin. "We want to make sure we honor their commitment to serving the country as well. Service members cannot do it without support on the home-front."

Initial planning for the event planned on roughly 150 people showing for, so the larger turnout threw plans into a wrinkle. Durgin stated that the larger than expected turnout helped prove the backing that the Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation has for its groups under their directorate.

"It's a double-edged sword because you have 'X' amount of food and you get a bigger turnout," she said. "You want to make sure you take care of people, because it's about recognizing their service. The coolest thing that happened, how it's supposed to happen, we put out an all-call, SOS, and the business operation division who was busy planning for the Mother's Day Brunch on Sunday, dropped everything they were doing and came over like the cavalry and saved the day. That was pretty cool because we are supposed to be one MWR family which is why we wear the logo."

For Samantha Payne, wife of Sgt. Raymond Payne, 287th Military Police Company, 97th Military Police Battalion, the chance to get out, by herself, and have fun which was important.

"It's the first time I've been able to something like this," she said. "My husband just came home, so it's the first time I'm able to do something by myself. It's a lot of fun."
With the event at the bowling alley, where they recently converted half the facility into a large tailgating area, gave spouses the opportunity to bring their children, allow them to play freely with other children all while being cared for.

Katie Czerniak, wife of Sgt. 1st Class Derek Czerniak, Company B, 1st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Aviation Regiment, 1st Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, allowed her 4-year-old son, Braydon, to venture out and play in the tailgate area.

"(I) like the fact that they have the play area," she said. "Last year I lost him and I about died. He was just two places down or something, but I couldn't find him. Now, I can get my hair done and I don't have to worry about him. I got my eyebrows waxed, I'm not worried about him. I just look up and see him. The bowling alley was a definite plus."

For Debra Spratt, wife of Sgt. 1st Class Terry Spratt, 1st Combined Arms Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, who was there with her 4-year-old daughter, Victoria, the day was about being pampered, plain and simple.

"(It's) amazing," she said. "I told them, 'I feel special.' I haven't felt special in so long.
They gave us chocolate candy, I haven't gotten chocolate candy from my husband the whole time he's been deployed."

Durgin said despite a 15 to 20-minute window where the food was behind, she did not hear any negative remarks about the event. She also admitted that she and her crew will work harder to ensure all military spouses are recognized in the future.

"I do think we do need to do a better job to encompass all of our demographic," she said. "I was in Facebook this morning on the Fort Riley Spouses page, and the first post

I saw this morning was of a spouse saying, 'Hi. I'm a male spouse and I want to keep it appropriate. I don't want to hang out with female spouses. A122799re there any guy spouses out there that want to hang out.' We haven't done a good enough job recognizing that. We have female service-members out there that choose to put on the uniform every day and they come a lot of times with significant others that we need to take of as well."