FORT LEWIS, Wash. - Children on Fort Lewis celebrated a birthday on June 19- the Army's 234th birthday.

Child development centers throughout post planned book readings, obstacle courses and other fun events. The favorite part was, of course, the birthday cake.

"How many of you like birthdays'" asked Barbara McPherson, the Clarkmoor Child Development Center administrator.

All 18 preschool-age children, to whom she was reading the book titled "Sam the Army Dog" by Mary Ellen Pratt, raised their hands in excitement.

The book reading at the Clarkmoor CDC was only part of the festivities developed at Fort Lewis to involve children in celebrating the Army's birthday. Beachwood, Madigan and Clarkmoor Child Development Centers held celebration activities while Teen Zone, North Fort Youth Center and Outback School-Age Center and Family Child Care also participated. The Army Youth Jazz Band joined in on the celebration by playing songs at the different locations. While the Army's birthday was June 14, there were too many festivities to be contained in a single day; they stretched for almost two weeks.

"Events are scheduled for children in all the programs," said Pam Thompson, the Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation's leader trainer for child youth and school service. "This year we were looking more toward field games."

But with the Washington drought coming to an end, a lot of the obstacle courses and other field activities were cancelled or moved indoors.

At the Clarkmoor CDC, Toddlers were given the opportunity to dress up like Soldiers in Army clothes, crawl through an Army tunnel and attempt a rope pull. Preschool children played games including follow the leader and Army Simon Says, which included commands such as forward march and saluting.

"We tried to find things that reflected the military culture for all age groups," said the Clarkmoor CDC director, Rhonda Fairgrieve.

One thing that didn't get rained out was the reading of the book, "Sam the Army Dog."

The book was about a small puppy that wanted to help others as an Army dog but because of his small size, it was difficult for him to find a way. As the book progresses, Sam learns he can volunteer with the Army hospital, visiting volunteers.

Alexia Schaff, 6, was one of the 18 children listening to the morning book reading. Her father is an Army Veteran, while her mother is active military.

When asked what she thought of the story she replied "It was good."

Many of the children said they enjoyed the book because they owned a dog, while several others said they loved the Army. But one point the book made clear is the importance of children in 234 years of Army success.

Kelly McGrath is a reporter with Fort Lewis' Northwest Guardian.