Published: October 4, 2013
Twenty-four children of Fort Carson soldiers earned honorary Expert Infantryman Badges on Sept. 20 at the 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment's inaugural "Wee EIB" event.
For munchkins who scored the coveted badge - especially those who did so before their dads - the achievement meant bragging rights and a shiny silver pin.
Logan Day, an avid artist, figured the event's coloring contest was his best chance to take home the badge.
The youngster made a beeline for the arts and crafts table, where he chose a coloring sheet with a Humvee on it and began coloring it orange, his favorite hue.
"He figured if he could doodle his way to an EIB, he ought to," said his dad, Sgt. Randy Day.
Logan believed that using the special twistable crayons might give him an edge in the competition.
But his win was far from a done deal.
"My chances are probably one out of one million," Logan said while eyeing a table where kids could make necklaces with chem lights, which looked like glow sticks, and twine.
Pvt. Jacob Gillispie helped hold Logan's picture as he colored.
Gillispie doesn't have kids. So he volunteered to man the arts and crafts booth.
"I enjoy getting to see all the kids," he said. "They remind me of my nieces and nephews. This brings back joyful thoughts of when I was young."
As the sun peeked from behind the clouds and Chinooks buzzed overhead at the unit's motor pool, more than 100 kids worked in various ways to win a badge: a relay race, an obstacle course, a water balloon "grenade" toss.
Between competitions, they picked up goody bags, checked out military weapons and vehicles, and dined on hamburgers, pizza, and ice cream.
"Wee EIB" was designed to give families a chance to bond and meet other families before the unit's soldiers head to the National Training Center in California next month, and to Afghanistan early next year, said Lt. Col. William Voorhies, battalion commander.
The event gave children the chance to "see what mom and dad have done, not only for the nation, but for each other," Voorhies said. "They fight for each other."
Army veteran Stephen Tova brought his children to the event at the invitation of Spc. Salvador Tova, his cousin and an infantryman with the unit.
"This is actually pretty cool," said Stephen Tova as his toddlers enjoyed a bounce house nearby. "It's definitely the first time I've heard of a 'Wee EIB' event like this."
Spc. Ben Jeffrey doesn't have kids. But he didn't want to show up to the event alone.
So he brought his neighbor's teacup Yorkshire terrier, Dodger.
"I just wanted to bring a dog," the single soldier said. "We'll have fun just hanging out with my buddies."
An hour into the event, 7-year-old Kirsten Conover was having trouble deciding what her favorite activity had been: competing in the obstacle course, locating stuffed animals in a dark warehouse while wearing night-vision goggles or getting green camouflage painted on her face.
Though the event was designed to prepare families for separation from their soldiers during training and deployment, Maj. Drew Conover said his family didn't need help with that.
He's deployed three times since his daughter was born. The family is used to the distance, he said.
For the Conovers, "Wee EIB" was about making friends - and precious memories.
"I love that this is bringing all the families together," Joette Conover said.
"The kids get to see what mom and dad do. They get to spend the day in the Army."