Zoo hosts Luke Air Force Base families for special day out

Posted 5/3/21

Tyler Larsen, 8, has already lived in four different states. In addition to regular extended training sessions, his father, Brandon-- an Air Force Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician-- has been deployed twice in Tyler’s young life. Tyler’s little sister, Charli, 4, struggles with her daddy being gone. Like many 4-year old girls, she’s a daddy’s girl and doesn’t quite understand extended absences.

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Zoo hosts Luke Air Force Base families for special day out

Posted

Tyler Larsen, 8, has already lived in four different states. In addition to regular extended training sessions, his father, Brandon-- an Air Force Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician-- has been deployed twice in Tyler’s young life. Tyler’s little sister, Charli, 4, struggles with her daddy being gone. Like many 4-year old girls, she’s a daddy’s girl and doesn’t quite understand extended absences.

That’s just part of what it means to be a military child. Over the next few years, they will surely move again. Tyler and Charli will certainly change schools repeatedly. They will still miss their dad. And they will carry on.

“For a kid that’s moved so much and experienced so much change so young, he is so resilient and always ready for the next new thing-- that’s how we approach every move,” Allison, his mom, said about Tyler.

According to the American Association for School Administrators, there are currently 1.2 million military children of active-duty members worldwide. Nearly 80 percent of military children attend public schools throughout the United States. The average military family moves three times more often than their civilian counterpart.

Military parents and spouses are resilient, too.

Allison didn’t grow up in a military family, so the whole military lifestyle was brand new to her. She and Brandon began dating in high school. He talked about joining the Air Force then but ended up going to college for a year. Eventually-- in 2011-- he decided military was the way to go and they have been serving ever since.

His first deployment left new mom Allison home alone with 4-month old Tyler. Originally from Michigan, they moved back from where they were stationed in Alaska to be with family.

“The first time he deployed was hard, being a new mom, but Tyler of course didn’t know,” Allison said. “Back in Michigan we had lots of help from family while Brandon was away. But now I think this deployment has been more difficult emotionally because both kids understand it this time.”

As a mom, Allison worries about how the kids will handle being away from their extended family (grandparents, great grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins) as they get older. Fortunately, unlike many military families, they have the opportunity to visit and do vacations with family-- so their children will still get those special memories.

“Holidays away started out hard for me when Brandon first enlisted and we left Michigan,” she said. “But the longer we’ve been away, the more we’ve come to really love having our own quiet holidays or celebrating with friends.”

Allison, Tyler and Charli, along with 47 other Luke Air Force Base family members, were guests of the Peoria American Legion Auxiliary Unit 62 to the Wildlife World Zoo, Aquarium and Safari Park, 16501 W. Northern Ave., Litchfield Park, during April — Month of the Military Child. The event was coordinated through the Luke Air Force Base Family Readiness Group.

Along with entrance to the zoo, each family member received complimentary ride tickets, a backpack with snacks and a $10 McDonalds’s gift card.

“A big portion of this event was paid from proceeds from the sale of photographic art donated to our Unit,” Unit president Tammy Early said.

The Unit extends extra thanks to Sun City resident Roberta Durbin — her Marine Corps husband, Larry, was an active member of the Sun City Camera Club, respected artist and mentor. Fittingly, he also loved going to the Wildlife Zoo.

The Unit would also like to thank members of the Post 62 American Legion Family, the City of Peoria and the local community for their ongoing support to military families.

Email Unit 62 at alaunit62a@gmail.com to learn more and get involved.

Editor’s note: Marge Christianson is a volunteer with American Legion Auxiliary Unit 62 in Peoria.

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