JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas –
A permanent change of station can be difficult for any family. In the whirlwind of moving boxes, overseas flights, damaged household goods and living out of suitcases there are a lot of opportunities to be overwhelmed. For one family new to Joint Base San Antonio, a visit to the local fire station helped calm the swelling seas of a recent PCS.
“My son has been having a hard time adjusting to being in San Antonio,” said Angela DeBoer, a U.S. Navy spouse. “He really misses Guam. We had plans to tour the fire station there for [his and his twin sister's] birthday and a typhoon hit.”
Instead of visiting Sparky the Fire Dog and enjoying their 5-year-old twins’ birthdays in Guam, Angela’s husband, U.S. Navy Cmdr. Derek DeBoer was required to go out to sea during the storm, leaving Angela and their three young kids sheltering in place for days on end.
“Everything seemed really abrupt after the typhoon hit,” Angela explained. “The next month, we were packing up our house and leaving; everything went really quickly. I don’t think we really had time to adjust.”
In the following weeks after relocating to San Antonio, Angela noticed her son having difficulty with the move. One of his comments stood out as a possible resolution.
“He mentioned that he missed Sparky and it clicked in my head!” Angela recalled. “I’m going to try and see if we can meet Sparky here.”
The DeBoers would commonly see Sparky out and about while stationed at Guam, whether it was promoting fire safety outside of the AAFES Exchange or coming into schools to teach the kids about fire alarms and extinguishers.
“Sparky really makes it special for our young ones,” explained Darrin Tannert, 902nd Civil Engineer Squadron assistant fire chief for prevention lead. “It’s something very relatable for kids and gets them excited about fire safety.”
Angela reached out to the JBSA fire station to see if they could meet Sparky.
“I figured it wouldn’t hurt to ask!” she said. “I’m glad I did. I initially reached out to the fire station to see if we could meet Sparky or find out where he was going to be. The fire department did one better and arranged an entire tour of their station and so much more.”
Tannert and his team of firefighters showed the DeBoers around the fire station, explaining everything from front office functions to how the ladder truck can extinguish fires from several stories high. Although it offers the family a unique experience, it also helps prevent fire risk by educating people both young and old.
“Our outreach program is for our community. Period,” explained Tannert. “Everything goes towards community or community service. When you educate your community, their knowledge goes up and you can prevent fire risk by being proactive.”
The family ended the tour with a Sparky meet and greet. They exchanged high-fives and the kids hugged their familiar mascot before parting ways with JBSA’s firefighters.
“I’d like to say that Sparky contributed to my son being able to process and move forward with being here in Texas,” Angela pointed out, chuckling. “He sees that Sparky is here with him, just like he was in Guam, and I think that helps.”
Families can visit the official Sparky the Fire Dog website at https://www.sparky.org to get fire prevention tips, family activities, reading materials and games for kids.