By Mitch Meador, Fort Sill TribuneMarch 7, 2019
FORT SILL, Okla. (March 7, 2019) -- The constant moves imposed by military life can make it difficult for a spouse to pursue a successful career.
Difficult, but not insurmountable. Melissa Myers is a perfect example of one who beat the odds, working her way up to become director of Cooper Child Development Center.
"I am not from a military family. I grew up in southeast Kansas on a ranch. The closest town was Erie, Kansas, and it's a very small town. And then I went to Kansas State University, and I got married in 2004," she said.
By that time she had her degree in animal science/veterinary medicine. She had met her husband, Roger Myers, when they were in high school, as he grew up in a town "one over" from Erie. He'd joined the Army, and his first duty station was at Fort Bragg, N.C. They married after the completion of his first deployment, and Melissa joined him at Fort Bragg.
She worked as a vet tech for a while, and then they came to Fort Sill and started job-hunting. There were no openings in veterinary medicine, and she went for eight months without work. She started looking online and saw that the School-Age Center was looking for summer hires. So she took a job there as a flex employee helping with summer camp.
"I saw that they had an involvement with the 4-H program, and I grew up doing 4-H and FFA, so I was intrigued to see if I could help with that. And then when I took the position, I really felt like I did a lot and I was able to really help them with their 4-H program, and help them excel," Myers said.
So, in 2010, the 4-Hers started doing projects and making entries for the Comanche County Fair.
She said she really enjoyed working with the children, and so she went back to school to take more classes in early childhood development. Her interest in this had perked up in 2008 with the birth of their son, Timothy, who's now 10 and a fourth grader at Freedom Elementary School.
"I started spending a lot of time with him and just doing more research with him and doing play groups. And I've always enjoyed working with children," she said.
A lot of her courses were through Central Texas College at the Harry S Truman Education Center. Others were online with Texas A&M.
Eventually the family PCSed to become part of the U.S. Army presence at Vicenza, Italy, which she describes as "beautiful." There, she became a supervisory lead and assistant director for a school-age center and child development center. She served there in 2014-2016.
When they returned to Fort Sill her husband is currently a staff sergeant serving as a light-wheeled mechanic for 1st Battalion, 14th Field Artillery it was a smooth transition to the assistant director's job at Cooper CDC. She was recently promoted to facility director.
In this role she interacts with children and parents.
"I enjoy what I do a lot because I know every one of the children in the facility, and I get to see how they tick. I get to have a lot of meetings with the parents, and get to help them through difficult times. And, you know, we know when they're deploying, or going TDY. And they allow us to help facilitate those needs with their kids," Melissa Myers said.
Granted, it's tough to try to explain to small kids why Daddy or Mommy went away.
"It is, but when we know those transitions are going to happen, then we're able to help them deal with it a little bit easier, because we can tell them when they're coming back. So it's nice to be a part of that," she said.
Despite occasional signs of separation anxiety, "our kids are very resilient, so they deal with change every single day. I think it's becoming more and more normal to them, that this is their normal."
When they miss their parents, she tells them, "It's OK to be sad, and it's OK to be angry, and you're their friend. You just try to help be their support person. But we don't replace their parent, ever, we're just there to support them. And then we get to be there and see them reunited, so that's the best part ever."
Sometimes it's the kids who support her.
"They're so excited to see you. You can be having the worst day ever, and they run up to you, and they tell you how much they love you. Or you can walk in a classroom and they tell you that your hair is beautiful and that they like your red shirt. They're just the most honest souls in the world. That's nice, you know.
"You're there when they start taking their first steps, and when they decide they don't like blueberries, and when they learn what friendships are and that someone hurt their feelings. We get to witness all of those things that happen in development. We're a part of all their firsts, and that's an amazing thing."
As facility director, Myers is in a position to point other military spouses to career opportunities. She oversees a staff of 62. This includes all sorts of job descriptions: lead teacher, assistant teacher, administrative staff, cooks, maintenance workers, assistant directors, supervisory program assistants, and trainers.
"It takes a lot to help us tick and help these kiddos," she notes. The CDC serves children between the ages of eight weeks and six years, so the type of person she's looking for is "someone who's very patient."
Flexibility is another plus. The center is open from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m., so work-hours change with the needs of the Army mission. When Soldiers' mission changes and they start working later at night, so do the staffs of the CDCs.
"We require a very flexible, dedicated work staff, and that can be hard to find," she admits. "Your hours change constantly, but it's a very rewarding job."