Military children honored at MacArthur

Garrison Commander Col. Tom Rickard talks with Drake Smith (left), 14, and Taylor Galvin, 15, two eighth-graders at MacArthur Middle School after a meet and greet on Friday morning. (Photos by Lisa R. Rhodes)

Garrison Commander Col. Tom Rickard told a group of eighth-graders at MacArthur Middle School that he moved 10 times as a military child.

Rickard shared his experiences during a series of “meet and greet” talks with students at MacArthur on Friday. The talks were a part of the school’s observance of the Month of the Military Child.

Hank Branch, the sixth-grade counselor and school military liaison, organized three 30-minute “meet and greets” for eighth-grade, sixth-grade and seventh-grade students who are military children.

Branch said the “meet and greets” were part of a weeklong celebration of the school’s 320 military students.

“We want to promote and support our military students,” Branch said. “Today is Army Day.”

Rickard and Stephen Ham, senior defense policy adviser for Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin who also grew up as a military child, thanked students for supporting their military parents and for serving the nation in their own unique way.

“Thank you for what you’re doing — not just being a great kid and a great student,” Rickard said. “But what you’re really doing [is], you’re sending a message to a lot of people around the world about what it’s like to be a military kid and that you’re tougher than people think you are and I know it. You’re actually very tough on the inside.”

The colonel said that despite having to adjust to frequent moves, making new friends, enrolling in different schools and enduring a parent’s long deployments, military children are a source of pride for Fort Meade.

Stephen Ham, senior defense policy adviser to Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, discusses college choices with Shantele Gaddis (left), Taylor McCullin and Trinity Estrada, eighth-graders at MacArthur Middle School, during a meet and greet on Friday.

“We’re proud of you, your parents are proud of you, and you should be proud of yourselves,” Rickard said.

Ham said Cardin supports the entire military community, and that military family members ensure the well-being of those who serve.

“It’s not an easy role,” Ham said. “Keep your eyes on the prize. No matter where you are, you’re doing something for our country.”

Rickard and Ham then answered students’ questions about serving in the military and the country’s current political climate.

Eric Vanrite and Valencia Robinson, child youth program assistants for the Fort Meade Youth Center, spoke to the students about activities at the center, including an overnight stay on Friday and summer camp.

Eighth-grader Kori Roberts said she was excited to meet the garrison commander.

“It was cool,” the 14-year-old said. “It’s not every day that you get to meet someone so high up or high rank.”

Trinity Estrada, 14, said she was impressed that Ham answered her questions about choosing the right college.

“It was a great opportunity,” she said.

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