Col. Todd Jensen has called Abilene and Dyess Air Force Base “home” since last June, the 11th stop in his 22-year military career, and he’s adamant that he’s learned one thing about the city of Abilene.
“Without a doubt – and I say this unequivocally – I’ve never found friendlier people in all my stops than here in Abilene,” said Col. Jensen, serving at Dyess as the Commander of the 7th Bomb Wing Mission Support Group. “Everywhere we go here, there’s a level of feeling welcome in the community like nowhere else I’ve experienced in my other assignments.”
“Without a doubt – and I say this unequivocally – I’ve never found friendlier people in all my stops than here in Abilene,”
For military families who are constantly on the move, that feeling of being welcomed and part of the community is what makes their transitions just a little bit easier.
That welcoming attitude was on display on the evening of April 26 as Clack Middle School – along with Dyess Elementary School and Cooper High School – hosted a Family Picnic for all military-connected families. The families enjoyed free hot dogs, a face painting station, games, and performances by Revolution Strings and a combined band comprised of members from the Cooper and Clack bands. Student Council members from both CHS and Clack were also on hand to help welcome families and serve food.
The celebration was part of the “Month of the Military Child, which helps to underscore the important role military children play in the armed forces community. Sponsored by the Department of Defense Military Community and Family Policy, the Month of the Military Child is a time to applaud military families and their children for the daily sacrifices and the challenges they overcome.
“Without a doubt, being able to get plugged into a community and feel welcomed is important for adults,” Col. Jensen said, “but it’s even more important for the children of service members because they have a harder time adjusting to each move.”
Part of the challenges those families must overcome is getting children settled into new communities, homes, and schools every time a parent’s assignment takes them to a new city. Part of what Clack principal Dr. Chris Bailey sees daily is how much those students add to the campus.
“Dyess Air Force Base and our military-connected families are a cornerstone of the AISD family,”
“Dyess Air Force Base and our military-connected families are a cornerstone of the AISD family,” Bailey said. “Our campus benefits from the diverse experiences that military-connected students bring. Serving as principal of a school with such a large number of military-connected students has been rewarding for me and brings me a sense of pride in supporting those that serve our country.
“Given the frequency by which our military-connected students have to make this transition, continuity of learning can become a challenge,” he said. “We don’t take this responsibility lightly and work hard to make sure our students find connection and belonging when they enter the doors of Clack Middle School. It’s truly a team effort between Team Dyess and Team Clack to support our military-connected students in growth towards what’s next to come.”
That support and attitude of openness toward Dyess, its leadership, and its families is what Col. Jensen and other members of the leadership team with children in AISD appreciate.
“What we’ve seen here – specifically with (AISD Superintendent) Dr. David Young and Dr. Bailey – is openness to conversation and a willingness to listen to us,” said Col. Jensen, who has one child in college, one at Cooper, and two at Clack. “That’s a big thing for us: being heard, listening to the needs of the Dyess community, and a willingness to adjust.”
That willingness goes both ways, Bailey said.
“When we think of the men and women that serve in the armed forces, we must not forget about the sacrifice the entire family makes in service to our country,” he said. “Moving to a new community, to new schools, and having to make new friends can be a challenge to anyone. (7th Bomb Wing Commander) Col. Joseph Kramer, Col. Jensen, and the rest of their team have been collaborative and supportive in finding ways to make stronger connections between the school and the base.”