How One Military Child is Bringing Deployed Families Together at USO Lakenheath

April, the Month of the Military Child, is the time of year when we celebrate and recognize the sacrifices of the smallest members of the military community - military children.

Step into the shoes of a military child, stationed in a foreign country with your family. One day your mom comes home and tells you she has to deploy. A few weeks later, your dad calls and says he’s deploying as well. Graduating high school only a couple years ago, you find yourself thrust into a new world of responsibilities – not only adapting to this new reality, but also helping to care for your younger sister. This is Myra Howard’s reality.

Myra with her dad, Senior MSGT Howard. | Photo credit Courtesy Photo

With a mom and dad in the Air Force, Myra’s upbringing has been a mixture of locations, from California to Okinawa, Japan and then Las Vegas, Nevada. Myra has now lived in the United Kingdom with her family for almost seven years.

“We’ve moved four times,” she said, reflecting on the bittersweet rhythm of farewells and new beginnings that define military life. “Some challenges I’ve had are building friendships, meeting new people and learning new places.”

One of those new places has become the USO Center at RAF Lakenheath. Myra has become a steadfast volunteer with over 100 volunteer hours. From organizing supplies to manning the welcome desk, Myra’s contributions leave a mark on the center and those she encounters.

“I think that’s another challenge Myra faces with both her parents being active-duty and deployed,” said Jenna King, Interim Center Manager at USO United Kingdom. “She takes care of her little sister. And with that she has learned how to cook and she knows the base like the back of her hand. She has stepped up and grown from both parents being gone.”

Myra volunteers with the USO at RAF Lakenheath. | Photo credit USO Photo

For Myra, volunteering at the USO is more than lending a helping hand—it’s a lifeline.

If I’m feeling down, I can come to the USO and talk to the staff members,“ she said. "They’re always here for me.

Through volunteering, Myra not only finds connection, but also gains a deeper understanding of the shared experiences within the military community. One recent initiative in particular, reflects Myra’s compassionate spirit: designing welcome home banners for deployed families.

Myra approached Jenna a few months after her mom deployed with the idea of collaborating with the USO. She wanted to find a way to bring deployed-effected families together to celebrate the best part of deployment - their service member’s return.

Kids enjoy making welcome home banners for their families at USO Lakenheath. | Photo credit USO Photo

Myra acted as a liaison between the squadron and the USO, choosing a date for the craft night and spreading the word. On the day of the event, Myra put up decorative balloons, made fresh popcorn and gathered the craft supplies.

Myra with her mom, MSGT Howard. | Photo credit Courtesy Photo

Myra’s younger sister, Audrey, attended the event with her and they collaborated on a heartfelt welcome home banner for their mom.

“Myra was the star of the night, talking to everyone,” said Jenna. She not only knew each family and child by name, but ensured everyone had a memorable experience.

As she reflects on her journey as a military child, Myra expressed gratitude to her parents, whose service not only shaped her upbringing but also gifted her with invaluable experiences and friendships. "Thank you, mom and dad, for everything you have done for me,” she said. “ I really appreciate it and I’m so proud of you. I’m grateful for the experiences you’ve given me as a military child.”

What’s next for Myra? “I want to become a photographer,” she said. “I might join the military to take photos. The world can be a bad place sometimes, but there is so much beauty in it.”

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