By Colleen Flaherty
Fort Hood Herald
Fort Hood closed out Earth Month and Month of the Military Child with a party Friday - or, more appropriately, a fest.
For the second year in a row, Child Youth and School Services and the Directorate of Public Works' Environmental Division partnered to present the Month of the Military Child and Earth Fest, which attracted more than 10,000 people with family- and eco-friendly entertainment.
"I think it's great Fort Hood's got all these things for soldiers and families to do," said Sgt. 1st Class William Stonebauser, 69th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, adding that its themes reinforced what he teaches his three children. "We do recycling at the house, and the kids know what they've got to do, whether it's a plastic bottle, milk carton or soda can."
It may have had the same effect on soldiers, who increasingly are incorporating sustainability practices into their daily routines, said Stonebauser. "We just got a new recycling (noncommissioned officer) in our unit."
Post and community entities presented 28 sustainability-focused displays, including Fort Hood Family Housing's elaborate, "Alice in Wonderland" -themed exhibit made entirely of recycled materials.
San Antonio-based Zoomagination presented an exotic animal show for kids and teenagers enjoyed a rock climbing wall, gyroscope and other activities.
Free food and drinks were on hand and performances throughout the evening included those by the Shoemaker High School Pandemonium steel drum group and Corpus Christi-based band Lighter Ray.
Public works spokesperson Christine Luciano said the event held even greater meaning this year, given Fort Hood's commitment to achieving zero waste by 2020, as a voluntary pilot installation for the military's Net Zero campaign.
"We're pushing out the message of Net Zero waste today," she said, adding that food and other refuse from the event was being collected and taken to a composting facility off-post. Recyclables were taken to the Fort Hood Recycle Center, the largest in the Army, which sold more than 17,500 tons of recyclable material during the past two years.
Post-wide, Luciano said kids will be a big part of achieving Net Zero waste.
"We realize the impact kids will have in getting the message out, about being green and changing habits, because they educate their parents," she said. "We try to get them involved as much as possible."
Michael Alley, a deployment cycle specialist with Child Youth and School Services who helped organize the Month of the Military Child portion of the event, agreed.
"Really, when we talk about environmental stewardship, we're looking out for our future, which goes hand in hand with children," he said.
First Cavalry Division spouse Michelle Crutchley took her three kids to the fest for the second year.
"The kids have so much fun and it's a free event, so you can't beat that," she said, adding that recycling is an important practice in her household.
Gavin Crutchley, 11, agreed.
"We don't want the Earth to be filled with trash that the animals can choke on," he said.
Month of the Military Child is a Defense Department-wide celebration of the sacrifices of military kids observed each year throughout April.
The Month of the Military Child and Earth Fest kicked off Friday morning with a tree-planting ceremony to celebrate Fort Hood's ongoing status as a certified Tree City USA, and visit from area school children.
"I'm really excited about all we are doing in the name of sustainability," said Col. Mark Freitag, garrison commander.
Hood Herald writer Mason Canales contributed to this report.
Contact Colleen Flaherty at email@example.com or (254) 501-7559. Follow her on Twitter at KDHFortHood.