FORT HOOD — Tracy Dukes sacrificed being in the same room as snakes for her three boys. Since her husband deployed 18 days ago, Dukes does what she can to keep her children busy.

“We try to stay as busy as possible,” Dukes said Thursday during the Military Child Education Coalition’s “Tell Me A Story” event at Meadows Elementary School. It was part of the nonprofit’s Parent to Parent Program, which trains military parents to help support, educate and assist one another.

During the event, Maj. Gen. Anthony R. Ierardi, 1st Cavalry Division commander, and his wife, Angela, read “Verdi” by Janell Cannon.

That was followed by a breakout session, where families discussed the book, and an Austin Reptile Shows presentation of live snakes and lizards. “Verdi,” which is about a snake morphing colors as he grows, helped about 300 family members who attended learn about dealing with changes.

Cathy Sumner, team leader for Fort Hood’s Parent to Parent Program, said the nonprofit chose the book because most military children can relate to its message. She hopes they realize they’re not alone as they move or deal with the deployment of a parent.

“They’re constantly going through that fluctuation of change,” she said.

This was a great way to promote education and enhance the value of reading, Ierardi said.

“It’s also an opportunity for us to interact with the community and get involved,” he said. “Literacy is really important.”

Dukes’ son, Andrew, 7, was excited about the reptile show.

“I’m excited to take pictures with snakes,” he said. “This is my first time.”

Dukes said she hopes Fort Hood organizations continue to provide free family-oriented events, despite looming budget cuts.

“It’s awesome for the kids,” she said. “This kind of stuff, we can’t afford to lose. Cut where you need to, but when it comes to the kids, you’ve got to realize they sacrifice enough already.”

Contact Sarah Rafique at or (254) 501-7549. Follow her on Twitter at KDHreporter.

I'm the education reporter at the Killeen Daily Herald. Follow me on Twitter at

(1) comment

Austin Reptile Shows

We were so happy to be part of this event and to share our scaly friends! I loved meeting all the wonderful kids and their families.

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