Story and photo by Spc. Andrew Ingram
1st Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Office, 4th Infantry Division
Cheers greeted nearly 500 “Raider” Brigade Soldiers and Family members as they approached the Marian House in downtown Colorado Springs Dec. 7, their rucksacks filled with canned goods, toys and winter necessities.
Adorned with holiday inspired hats, tinsel and Christmas lights, Soldiers of 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, carried the donated items to the soup kitchen to share with the city’s less-fortunate citizens during the third annual Operation Happy Holidays.
“Marian House is our kind of place because it is all about service, and that is what we do in the United States Army,” Col. Joel Tyler, commander, 1st BCT, 4th Inf. Div., told the crowd of Soldiers and Colorado Springs residents gathered at the Marian House. “This is our opportunity to give back to the community that gives so much to us.”
Raiders began the morning at Dorchester Park, where Soldiers packed items collected in the weeks leading up to the event, into their rucksacks, while holiday music resonated from portable speakers to set the tone in the cold morning air, and remind Soldiers of the tradition of selfless service during the holiday season.
At the park, Tyler thanked the Soldiers for volunteering their time and donating their possessions to a worthy cause.
“Our service in the Army is about our fellow citizens,” he said. “Today is the greatest opportunity we have to show the greater Colorado Springs community that we are all about serving them. I’m very proud of you Raiders. Thank all of you so much for coming out today.”
The Soldiers departed Dorchester Park on foot, marching approximately two miles on the Fountain Creek Trail through America the Beautiful Park and then on to the Marian House.
“When we walked up, seeing the smiles on everyone’s faces was really a highlight for me,” said Spc. Tifani Scales, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st BCT. “It is important to give back to the community.”
The Raider Soldiers brought so many clothes and other goods to the Marian House, the donations spilled off the tables set up in the parking lot.
Scales said taking part in the event reminded her of previous experiences working with charities before she joined the Army.
“I used to do events like this all the time back home,” she said. “It can get really emotional, but it is important to remember where you came from. Right now I’m doing pretty well, so I would like to keep helping out those who aren’t.”
Many Soldiers helped citizens sift through the donations to find specific clothing sizes, food items or toys for small children.
“This really helps out,” said Carlos Fisher, a community member who attended the event. “I’ve never seen anything like this. I wish these Soldiers the best and a very merry Christmas.”
The charity shown by the Raider Soldiers could help many Families make it through the winter, said Mark Rohlena, president and CEO of Catholic Charities of Colorado Springs.
“These Soldiers already give us so much,” Rohlena said. “It is a testament to the character
of the Raider Brigade that they would give so much to the people of this community, in addition to all of the things they do here in the U.S. and overseas.”