Story and photos by Spc. Andrew Ingram
1st Armored Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Office, 4th Infantry Division
With full packs on their backs and, in some cases, literal bells on their heels, more than 800 Soldiers marched down Tejon
Street from Dorchester Park to the Marian House in downtown Colorado Springs, during the 4th annual “Operation Happy Holidays” ruck march, Dec. 3.
With uniforms and packs decked out inholiday regalia, the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, troops delivered canned goods, blankets, winter clothes and toys to the soup kitchen, where many of the city’s less-fortunate citizens waited.
“Many of these Soldiers have just returned from the Middle East, where we had a long hot summer, and all we could think about was this nice cool walk downtown,” said Col. Joel Tyler, then commander of 1st ABCT.
Getting more serious, Tyler thanked all of the community members who supported the event, and stressed the importance of a strong relationship between the Soldiers of Fort Carson and the citizens of Colorado Springs.
“This is our opportunity, as it is every year, to give back to our community,” Tyler said to the gathered Soldiers and community members. “This absolutely binds us to Colorado Springs. We are America’s Army, and that means we serve — whether that is in the Middle East or right here downtown — it is our privilege and our honor.”
Once they arrived at the Marian House, the “Raiders” unloaded their donations, collected by the Soldiers, their Families and friends during the weeks leading up to the event.
Mark Rohlena, president of Catholic Charities, thanked the Raider Family for its donations, time and dedication to the people of Colorado.
“For the third year in a row, and the fourth time in five years, the Raider Brigade has shown that its generosity has no limits,” he said. “With all of the demands of your work and Family, you have once again taken the time to gather essential items for those most in need. These items will help our neighbors brave what will surely be a tough winter. On behalf of those we serve, I want to express our gratitude.”
Chap. (Maj.) Matthew Stuart, brigade chaplain, 1st ABCT, expressed pride in his unit’s dedication to the Colorado Springs community.
“This is the third year I’ve been a part of Operation Happy Holidays, and every year it gets bigger,” Stuart said. “Every year we get to contribute directly to this community, and the outpouring of support we’ve received is overwhelming.”
Raiders helped recipients sift through the mountainous piles to find a coat in the right size, much needed foodstuffs or even the perfect Christmas gift for a 6-year-old boy.
“I’ve enjoyed this a lot,” said Spc. Kerry Lightner, intelligence analyst, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st ABCT. “We’ve taken a ruck march, something work related, and turned it into something fun and good for the community. I’m very glad I got to come out and support the event this year.”