Story and photos by Sgt. William Smith
4th Infantry Division, Public Affairs Office
DECKERS — Sounds of laughter, clapping hands and stomping feet echoed through the trees of Camp Shady Brook, as the guest speakers took the stage during military appreciation day, Aug. 1.
Soldiers from the 534th Signal Company, 43rd Special Troops Battalion, 43rd Sustainment Brigade, and the 4th Infantry Division and
Fort Carson Mounted Color Guard, supported the 200 children participating in the Camp Corral week. All of the children have a Family member who has been killed or injured in combat, or is currently deployed.
“It’s an honor to come out to put on a show for these children, who have sacrificed so much with their parents being on the front lines,” said Sgt. Jeff Lewis, 4th Infantry Division and Fort Carson Mounted Color Guard. “The kids are like the forgotten ranks, the unsung heroes. So coming out here for them is very uplifting, and makes us feel good.”
The children, ranging in age from 8 to 15, stayed at the camp for a week.
“It is our mission to get these kids up here, and for them to just have a great time being a kid again,” said
Pat Soldan, executive director, Camp Shady Brook, YMCA. “Some of these kids take on added responsibilities when mom or dad (is) gone … so this is a time where they can let loose and relax. The mission for this camp is to make sure no money comes out of their (Families’) pockets, and to let the kids be kids.”
The military appreciation day’s events started with the primary guest speaker, Staff Sgt. Ben Gloe, squad leader, 534th Sig.
“We were invited out here to military appreciation day to talk with you,” Gloe said. “Those of us in uniform do what we do because we want you to have the things that you enjoy today. I thank you for the sacrifices you make by being strong at home.”
After answering a few questions, the Soldiers showed the children some Army gear and played various games with them.
Gloe said his favorite part of the day was the Ga Ga Pit, because it was a new game and was fun to play with the children.
Lewis said events like these are what keeps the mounted color guard at full tilt.
“When we get to interact with these kids, and they are smiling, laughing and having a great time, that is what makes it worthwhile for us,” Lewis said. “You do the ceremonies on post, you do the parades in the local towns, but this is what keeps us going, and what it is all about. With Gold Star Families it is always an honor; it chokes me up just talking about it.”
Donations made by a national food chain allowed the children to take part in the weeklong event, which would have cost $550 per child. In addition to the weeklong camp, they received backpacks, beach towels, water bottles and T-shirts.