Game Changer: Sharing childhood, making memories at family game night

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Sgt. William Tomblin, 97th Military Police Battalion, bonds with his wife, Katie, and children Maverick, 5, Zaylie, 6, Ellyse, 5 and Sullivan, 6 months, over a Disney trivia board game July 21 during the USO Unplugged: Family Game Night. The event as held at USO Fort Riley and included a nacho bar dinner.

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Katie Tomblin asks her 5-year-old daughter, Ellyse, a trivia question from “Scene It? Disney Edition” during USO Unplugged: Family Game Night July 21. During the game night, families were discouraged from using their electronics, unless it was for taking photos.

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Jaiden McCroy, 4, and his father, Spc. Demetrice McCroy from Company B, 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, take turns removing ailments from patients during a game of “Operation” July 21.

The USO Fort Riley was filled with laughter July 21 as families shut off their electronics for some time together over board games at the USO Unplugged: Family Game Night.

The idea behind this game night was to help families focus on reconnecting. About 70 people attended and more than 200 types of activities from USO Fort Riley’s game collection were available. A nacho bar dinner was also available.

Victoria Fuqua, wife of Sgt. 1st Class Mathew Fuqua, Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security operations noncommissioned officer, and USO Fort Riley family game night coordinator and volunteer, said families are discouraged from using their phones, unless it is for taking pictures.

“Just so families can kind of get rid of all the distractions and get back to playing board games and laughing and having fun as a family; instead of just sitting on the couch watching TV or playing video games or being in different rooms all the time,” Fuqua said.

In addition to the uninterrupted family time, Fuqua said game night is a helpful for reintegration after a redeployment.

“It’s a really great way to just spend attention on each other in a non-confrontational way,” she said.

Fuqua’s husband was also volunteering during game night and she said they also benefited from the event.

“It’s kind of nice that, though we don’t get to sit down and play the games, we do get to collectively volunteer and do something together outside of the house,” she said. “We still get the together time, even though it’s not playing games.”

For another military family, Ashley Johnson, wife of Staff Sgt. Kevin Johnson from 21st Combat Hospital Support out of Fort Hood, Texas, and her three children benefited from the event while her husband is deployed. She and her children moved to Fort Riley four days prior to the event.

“I didn’t have to cook dinner tonight, which is great and always a plus,” said Johnson. “We just moved here … our first stop was ‘Where is the USO? Let’s go check it out.’”

She and her children had a lot of fun and tried several games they hadn’t played before, she said. Johnson also had the opportunity to share some games she enjoyed as a child with her kids who took a liking to them.

“Everywhere we move, there’s always been a USO,” she said. “It’s a dedicated game night and it’s just nice to sit there and connect, and have fun with your kids; just play games that you grew up as a kid (and) played.”

She commented on how her children reminded her of herself when she was their age.

“We just played ‘Trouble,’ I remember sitting there as a kid wanting to just pop the machine, and that’s all my 4-year-old wanted to do: pop the machine,” Johnson said. “That was kind of fun to see.”

Johnson finds comfort in knowing she and her family have the USO as a constant in their military life.

“You always have a place to go where your family will always be put first and well taken care of,” she said. “It’s so nice and refreshing to come (to USO Fort Riley), or any USO and have fun, they will feed you, and they always have activities for you and your family, and your family is first. It’s all they want to do; it’s to help your family.”

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