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Birthday Book to Help Youth Better Understand Army

By C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (June 03, 2008) -- A new book by Army Youth Services was published to help children better understand Army history and their role in the greater Army Family.

As part of a Secretary of the Army-directed initiative to include Army children in the service's 233rd birthday celebration, Army Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command's Child Youth Services developed a new book titled "Happy Birthday U.S. Army!"

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The simple book, less than 25 pages, is heavy on pictures, graphics and Army history. The birthday-themed narrative involves a young boy discussing the birthday of his grandfather and the similarities between his immediate family and the larger Army family of which he is also a part.

The book was co-written by Donna M. McGrath and Mary Ellen Pratt, both with Army Youth Services. Their intent was to impart on youth the breadth of Army history, the importance of the contributions of their military parents, and their own place in the Army Family, said McGrath, Army child and youth sports and fitness manager.

"We wanted to highlight for young children the importance of what their parents are doing in the Army, the richness of Army history, and their part in this huge wonderful organization," she said. "And who else loves a birthday and birthday cake as much as children? So why not have a celebration of the Army's birthday that includes the total Army family? That's what this is all about."

Youth at Fort Myer, Va., near the Pentagon, will be among the first to receive copies of the free book, June 9. It is then that Secretary of the Army, Pete Geren, is scheduled to read the book to children gathered at the installation's Child Development Center. Following the reading, children will be given a copy of the book to take home.

Army CYS has prepared some 60,000 copies of the book for distribution to youth on garrisons worldwide. It is expected each garrison will hold functions similar to the one to be held at Fort Myer -- with local community leaders or mentorship figures reading the book to children -- during the week leading up to the Army's June 14 birthday.

Both Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., and Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth O. Preston will participate in similar readings in the National Capitol Region. Casey is expected to present the book to Army youth at Fort Belvoir, Va., while Preston will read to youth at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Washington, D.C.

While the book is aimed primarily at children, McGrath said she thinks the book will help others see the Army cares about military families and military youth.

"We want the Soldiers and the rest of America to know the Army takes care of kids," she said. "The Army has made unprecedented investments in Child Development Centers and youth programs, to include child and youth services programs, summer programs and respite care."

That kind of attention to military children and military Families is important, she said, because military Families are an important part of the Army's internal support system.

"Military Families have been an integral part of the Army's 233-year history," she said. "They are resilient and will remain Army Strong, even through this period of increased deployment cycles. They do that, in part, because of the support provided to them by the Army Family Covenant initiatives."

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