CAMP ZAMA, Japan (Sept. 10, 2020) – To celebrate the Month of the Military Child, children at Camp Zama are writing letters to their counterparts this month at Camp Walker in Daegu, South Korea; Schofield Barracks in Hawaii; and Fort Wainwright in Alaska.
“The kids are going to be delighted because they get actual letters,” said Lucinda Ward, Camp Zama school liaison officer and founder of the initiative, called “Letters Across the Pacific.”
The children participating are between the ages of 5 and 12 and attend the Child Development Centers at Camp Zama and Sagamihara Family Housing Area, and the School Age Center at SFHA, Ward said. So far, they have only written letters.
Joy Beaver, 11, wrote a letter to a military child in South Korea in which she described what it looks like in Japan. Joy said she is eager to know what it looks like where her pen pal lives.
As a military child, Joy has lived in Virginia, Maryland, Texas, Kansas and Germany, and used to write letters to a friend who lived in a different state, so she knows how great it can be to receive a letter from a friend in the mail.
“[I like] the surprise of reading them and the fact that they took the time to write them,” Joy said.
Joy said her favorite part of being a military child is moving.
“I’ve kind of gotten used to not staying in the same place, so after three years, I think it’s time to leave,” Joy said.
Michelle Baldwin-Trotter, facility director of the SAC, said she appreciates the initiative because military children are in a unique situation, and it is important that they communicate with others who are in the same situation.
“It is a small world, especially in the military,” Baldwin-Trotter said. “They’re traveling from base to base, and some of these kids actually know kids who are currently stationed in Alaska and South Korea, and of course, many other bases. So it’s good for them to be able to connect with each other and share their differences and their similarities through writing.”
For the children at the SAC, who are currently learning remotely at the facility, it also gives them a chance to connect with children they don’t see every day, Baldwin-Trotter said. Many of them haven’t been able to see their friends from school due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ashley Nunez, assistant director of the SAC, said letter writing is a lost tradition, and she is glad the children are learning it.
“Most importantly, they’re writing,” Nunez said. “They’re communicating in a different form other than text messages, and I think it’s really important that they know how to do that.”
In all, roughly a dozen children at the SAC volunteered to participate in the program, and they have enjoyed it, Baldwin-Trotter said.
Naomi Coleman, 9, said she decided to participate in the program because a lot of people don’t get to receive physical letters, and she wanted to show other military children she cares about them.
Naomi said she is writing to a military child in South Korea, and looks forward to getting to know someone new.
Likewise, Ariya Chism, 7, said she likes having lots of friends and decided to participate in Letters Across the Pacific because she wanted to make new friends.
The best part of being a military child, Ariya said, is “moving different places and making new friends.”
Hannah Tran, 10, meanwhile, is not a military child, but lives at Camp Zama and is also participating in the program.
Hannah said she has lived in Japan for more than two years, and wrote to a child in South Korea about what it’s like in Japan.
“I’ve told them that there’s really beautiful views and so many things to learn, like language and the culture,” Hannah said.
In addition, Analisa Myrtil, Raylan Martinez and Harmony Wilson, all 6, said they enjoy participating.
Raylan said he hadn’t written a letter to anyone before, and Analisa said she hopes the children who write to her tell her what Alaska looks like.
Harmony, meanwhile, who already exchanges letters with her dad in Alaska, decided to write to him again. To her, she said, letters mean “I love you.”
Children who do not attend a SAC or CDC can also participate, Ward said, by scanning letters and emailing them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Writers should include a return address.