Campbell and Caitlin Chase have become ambassadors of United Through Reading’s mission to connect military families experiencing separation. And they are also somewhat of military life experts after having a front row seat to the Army career of their dad, Lt. Col. Jeff Chase. The sisters light up as they talk about the positives of being a military kid, but they also know it can be tough — especially for their younger peers.
The Army tweens shared their top tips on moving, deployments, and developing a love of reading.
On PCS moves
The Chase family PCS’ed from Fort Bragg, North Carolina to Fort Belvoir, Virginia about three years ago. Campbell, 12, is very active in each community she lives in, participating in theater, robotics, band, and a church youth group. She embraces the opportunity to explore different areas of the country.
“I like moving sometimes because you get to see new things, especially moving to Virginia, there’s so much you can do in the D.C. area. We love to go see the Capitol and go to the big mall,” Campbell said.
Caitlin, 11, also has her own myriad of interests ranging from dance to sports to STEM, which makes her favorite part of relocating to Virginia no surprise.
“And [going] to the museums, like the aerospace museum and stuff like that,” she added.
On making new friends
It is a known fact that military kids can move every two-to-three years, making them quite the professional new kid on the block. Though it can be challenging to know how to develop friendships at a new school, Caitlin encourages other military kids to just be themselves.
“For making new friends, all you really got to do is just be yourself; just start a conversation like, ‘Hi, I’m Caitlin and stuff like that.’ The one thing that gets a lot of people talking is, ‘what’s your favorite thing to do’ or talking about school,” Caitlin said.
Campbell and Caitlin’s dad has deployed more than 11 times across his 22-year military career with the Army. They have learned some creative — and comforting — ways for getting through the days and months of military separations.
“There’s this trick called the “Daddy Kiss” and it’s where you get Hershey Kisses, and you put them in a jar and that’s how long your dad is going to be away, so like three months you’re going to have the amount of days. You eat one piece of candy a day — and it’s a visual example of how much longer you have,” Campbell explained.
She also recommends keeping a piece of mom or dad’s clothing close to have the familiar scent nearby.
“Another thing is, I know a lot of kids — especially when they’re young — they miss that physical — the touch, the hug — and they really miss that. What we do sometimes is we take one of our mom’s shirts or our dad’s shirt and we put it over a pillow and then we hug the pillow or sometimes we sleep with them on. The pillow trick works a lot,” she added.
Caitlin uses a super-sized bear at home for her pillow trick.
“It’s really, really useful for about ages 3-7. It’s more of a reminder and a visual for younger kids in that age, like me and my older sister we know time a lot better [now that we are older] and stuff like that,” she said.
On discovering United Through Reading
The Chase family has continually looked for ways to keep the kids connected to their dad, which is how they found United Through Reading. Campbell says the program has not only created “a young joy of literature at a very young age,” but it has given them a sense of stability and safety.
“Reading a book is something part of an everyday activity; it’s part of the nightly routine of reading a story and it’s like no difference to a young child. Your dad’s safe when he’s reading the story,” Campbell shared. “You can read through the book with them. I felt like he was actually there. We would put a different disk in every night and it can be like a new and exciting story every night.”
As she’s gotten older, Campbell has been able to watch how United Through Reading provides the same benefits for her younger siblings, which she calls “a privilege.”
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