First published on Discover Parkland
Sgt. Keith Curry, a former Big Brother in Fairbanks, AK is now helping to facilitate a new relationship between Joint Base Lewis-McChord and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Puget Sound.
Born in Arkansas, Sgt. Curry moved around the United States frequently. He even spent a significant amount of time living in Great Britain before he decided to enlist in the U.S. Army in Germany.
A father of five and a military kid himself, Curry understands the importance of providing children with a mentor with whom they share common ground.
Currently, he is working to establish the Military Mentoring Program in Pierce County which aims to match children of active duty parents with military mentors who will not be deployed. His knowledge of military culture is helping to ensure that the program is successfully implemented in Pierce County.
“A lot of people get in and get out. I wanted to leave something positive behind,” he stated.
The new program utilizes mentors who are retired military personnel, or staff on post at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. The goal is to select someone who can relate to military kids in ways that someone with little to no knowledge of the uniqueness of military life might not be able to.
Part of the reason Curry got involved with Big Brothers and Sisters in the first place was due to his own experiences that have shown him how not every child has the guidance of a strong role model in his or her life.
“If I give good values to someone else’s kid, maybe they will do the same for my kid. There are no guarantees in life… only that you’ll do your best for your neighbor,” he stated.
He stresses that pairing children of military families with adults who have also had some experience in different branches of the military is essential to establishing a strong and long-lasting connection, similar to the one he has with his past little brother.
In Fairbanks, AK, he was paired up with his little brother Terrance who was 11 when they first met. Although after a year and half he was eventually stationed at JBLM, he still maintains contact with his little brother by phone a few times a month to check in and see how he is doing.
“I hope I indirectly improved or at least helped to instill some positive values in his life. At the very least I hope I provided a good outlet for him to deal with the stresses he had at home,” he said of his time with Terrance.
However, he insists that ultimately the bond between the child and his mentor is what the youth wants to gain from the experience. Some are looking for a positive role model to relate to, while others may just need help in school or with family problems.
“Every match is unique…some kids just need a breath of fresh air,” he adds.
Curry has high hopes for the implementation of this new partnership between JBLM and Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Puget Sound. He anticipates that Pierce County is going to be a great place for it to thrive.
“The Military Mentoring Program has the capacity to be unique because of the natural demographics of JBLM,” he said.
He also is very optimistic about the Puget Sound region and the resources it could provide for the growth of this program.
“No other state has the resources, personality, or the dynamic to facilitate a program like this… It is going to do great things for the community.”