An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Home : News : Features : Display
NEWS | May 3, 2016

Balancing act: Military child soars over adversities

By Staff Sgt. Natasha Stannard 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Ally unraveled from a cocoon of silk fabric from 25 feet above the ground. Upon release from the threads, she swung her legs overhead and held her arms tightly.

Still swaying, Ally's face peaked through her legs, which served as supporting beams.

"This one is the scorpion," her coach said of the aerial acrobat pose Alley contorted her 40 pound body into.

Ally is the 11 year-old daughter of Fort Eustis, Virginia, U.S. Army Spc. Loriahn Bass and Staff Sgt. Zachary Bass.  The young aerial acrobat took up the sport three years ago, realizing her newfound hobby was more than just a physical talent, but also as an unexpected avenue for resiliency.

"It's like a whole new world you get to go to," said Ally.  "It feels like I can just fly and nothing's there to stop me."

For Ally, her world at 25 feet above the ground is a place where she isn't judged for her dyslexia or chronic bouts with pneumonia like she was in nearly every school she went to, which as a military child has been six schools in six years.

"This has been her constant, and we plan on keeping her involved throughout our military careers," said Loriahn. "This has given her the confidence to blossom. She doesn't take bullying to heart because she has this, and knows who she is inside."

Since practicing aerial acrobats, Ally has not only received accolades in the sport by winning state-level awards, but also in academics.

In her efforts to her reach her ultimate dream of joining Cirque du Soleil, Ally was accepted into the National Elementary Honor Society, recognized for volunteer efforts and awarded the presidential award for her grades.

"I do feel stronger. I'm more confident," she said. "I don't care about [bullying]. I can just go to gymnastics and it's over my shoulder by the end.  You can't let [people] get to you -- they just want to be as cool as you that's why they're doing it," she said with a smile.

After putting Ally through dance, Girl Scouts and volunteer programs, her parents were hoping to eventually find an activity that made her happy.  Seeing the smile on their daughter's face during acrobatic performances, and her drive to get back up after falling from the trapeze or landing a move incorrectly, they knew Ally had found something that made her shine.

"We tried a lot of different things," said Loriahn. "She was really good at them, but none of those things were her niche. Once we found this, we found what gave her stability in what can sometimes be a hectic lifestyle as a military child."

That consistency not only uplifted Ally's life, but also brought her family closer together. Much to the family's surprise, Ally wasn't the only member of the Bass family that had body-bending movements.

"My wife kept bugging me to try it, and I fought her a lot for quite some time because it's gymnastics and I'm a guy," said Zachary. "But I was actually surprisingly okay at it. I started taking one class of silks as something for [Ally and me] to share together. We've always been buddies, but this was something she was really passionate about for me to be involved in."

Now more than just an extracurricular for the Bass family, aerial gymnastics is a constant in all of their lives, and serves as something Ally's parents feel could help all military children deal with the unpredictable changes thrown into their lives.

"I don't think most people realize what being a military kid involves.  It's important to me to let other people know that Ally is living her life and doing her dream while her parents are in the military," said Loriahn. "Yes, sometimes being military is difficult because you have to move a lot or have to be gone, but that doesn't mean our children have to suffer. Once you see that spark in your child, keep it going."