A Soldier’s selfless act: taking on a role involving joy and heartbreak
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Staff Sgt. Kimberly Gary, U.S. Army Central Human Resources Non-Commissioned Officer, poses for a photo in front of Patton Hall at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., May 17, 2022. Gary became a caregiver to a newborn child under a kinship care agreement. The goal of kinship care is to safely return the child to his/her birth parent as soon as possible. (Photo Credit: Sgt. Keon Horton) VIEW ORIGINAL
A Soldier’s selfless act: taking on a role involving joy and  heartbreak
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Staff Sgt. Kimberly Gary takes a selfie with the baby she agreed to care for under the kinship care arrangement. The goal of kinship care is to safely return the child to parents as soon as possible. (Photo Credit: Sgt. Keon Horton) VIEW ORIGINAL

Growing up in small South Carolina town, Staff Sgt. Kimberly Gary was raised in a single parent home by her mother. As part of a close-knit family, she ended up gravitating towards her grandmother, whom Gary calls one of her biggest inspirations, because of her grandma's nurturing spirit. When her grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, Gary became a Licensed Practical Nurse to support her. Soon after, Gary decided to join the National Guard to serve her country and to pay for college.

“She always gave back and did for others whenever she could,” said Gary. “She was truly the type of person that would give you the shirt off her back or give you her last dollar.” This trait was something her grandmother had obviously instilled in Gary.

Gary’s faith also carried her through life, particularly the bible verse Jeremiah 29:11, “‘ For I know the plans I have for you’, declared the Lord. ‘Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'’” Part of that future, Gary felt, was an unexpected change to her life that began almost a year ago.

In August of 2021, a close friend she’d grown up with reached out for help. The moment Gary agreed to assist, she realized the life and plans she had before would change with one tiny addition to her life.

“My life has drastically changed since I’ve taken this child into my care,” said Gary. “When I first received him, he was no more than two months old.”

The help Gary agreed to involved a newborn child who was being temporarily separated from his mother. Gary entered into a Kinship Care Agreement, ensuring the safety and well-being of the newborn until the mother’s situation improved.

Under the Child Welfare System, the term “kin” can be relatives related by blood or marriage, or those who are unrelated but are considered family because of a close emotional relationship. When children cannot remain safely with families, Child Welfare prefers kinship care over placement in foster care with nonrelatives.

“It started out as a kinship care agreement due to none of the family being able to take him in,” said Gary. “ Once I got all the information I made the decision to care for him so he wouldn't be possibly mistreated in a foster care environment.”

There was one thought that ultimately led her to make the decision that she made.

“The baby was an innocent bystander and he had nothing to do with how the situation played out,” said Gary. “So that was my main reason for wanting to help out.”

Gary’s decision showed one of the many cases of selfless service that the Army instills into its Soldiers from day one. This decision impacted her day-to-day life in a big way. “At first I didn’t have a babysitter and still needed to maintain my job to support him. I went from worrying about nobody but myself to caring for an infant child.”

For those who enter into the kinship care agreements, the end result is the safe reunification of the child and birth parent. Gary is aware she’s taken on a situation of both joy and heartbreak.

“I understand that life goes on and I'll truly miss him,” said Gary. “I just pray that in the end he’s taken care of the way I know he should be.”