In celebration of Month of the Military Child, nine military-connected children who participated in MCEC’s Call for the Arts initiative were invited to design and decorate a small wooden suitcase to be installed in the East Wing of the White House. First Lady Jill Biden’s Joining Forces Initiative again featured art that spotlighted the experiences of military-connected children.
“It’s my hope that this beautiful art installation helps White House visitors better understand and appreciate the unique experiences of the children who serve alongside U.S. service members and veterans.” ~ Dr. Jill Biden
The inspiration for this year’s East Wing MOMC art installation came from the essay "My Military Suitcase," written by Kylee Garick in 2013 when she was a 4th grader from a U.S. Marine Corps family living in Kadena, Japan. Her teacher had submitted her writing back in 2013, and while it was not chosen that year to be featured, it was archived and selected for a display at the White House in April 2022, getting the attention of the First Lady. Kylee is now a grown-up military kid, and was quite surprised to be in the spotlight with her framed essay on display and the inspiration for the themed exhibit.
The creative and colorful suitcases were designed by military and veteran-connected children from MCEC and Workhouse Arts Center. Alongside the suitcases were impactful data and information pertaining to military and veteran children and families to help inform and educate the thousands of people who visit the East Wing. The young artists represented every branch of service, including Space Force and the Coast Guard, as well as active duty and veteran families.
Our nine MCEC artists sent in their suitcases from Ohio, Texas, California, Virginia, Alabama, Rhode Island, and Oklahoma. The artists were: Trey Bourquin, Madison Eldredge, Icyss Teadt, Lucas Robinson, Bristol Erwin, Teagan Collins, Nicholas Ortega, Orihime Berume, Ashley Wagner, and Kylee Garick.
As an exciting bonus opportunity, the artists and their families were invited by the White House to travel to DC and visit the East Wing to see their work on display. Five families traveled to DC and were all surprised and delighted to have the First Lady drop in, take pictures with the kids, and spend time talking with the young artists about their suitcase, why they chose to decorate it as they did, and their experiences as military-connected kids. It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!
by Kylee Garick
My military suitcase is filled with sadness, because I have to move every three years. I've lived in four different states and five different houses; one in South Carolina, one in Maryland, two in Florida, and one in Japan. Every time I move I have to leave more and more friends and leave my family. One of my friends was Juliana. She was in my 3rd and part of my 4th grade classes until she left in the middle of the 4th grade year.
My military suitcase is also filled with happiness, because I get to meet new friends. One of the new students is Sarah. We met at school and now are good friends. My favorite part about moving is seeing all of the beautiful sites. I recently went to Beijing, Xi'an, and Shanghai, China. Moving leads to doing things that I never thought I would get to do. If I never moved to Japan, I never would have gone to China. When I was in Beijing, I walked on the Great Wall of China.
And in the end, I might move to Niceville, Florida, so I have my military suitcase nearby.
“A great opportunity to bring the focus on the military children. We were very happy to be a part of it. [Kylee] is truly honored and so excited to get to share a small part of her military child experience. Meeting all of you as well as Dr. Jill Biden will always be remembered as such a treasured experience for her.” ” ~ Lori and Sean Garick