SOS asking community to donate boots
June 16, 2014
- "It's meant as a therapeutic event, for both survivors and battle buddies. - Suzy Yates, SOS Program Manager
- "We're looking at it more being a celebration versus the mourning. Celebrating somebody's life. We've gotten a lot of great feedback from people that want to do it." - Paulla Conant, SOS support specialist
FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. -- It may sound strange to say that old basic training boots stuck in the back of the closet can help honor fallen service members. But that's exactly what Fort Campbell Army Community Service Survivor Outreach Services is planning to do.
Fort Campbell is hosting a Hero and Remembrance Walk, Run or Roll, Nov. 1. While this date is a little less than five months away, SOS is already in heavy planning mode. The first-time event will cap off the organization's annual Gold Star Family Appreciation Week.
"We're looking at it more being a celebration versus the mourning. Celebrating somebody's life," said Paulla Conant, SOS support specialist. "We've gotten a lot of great feedback from people that want to do it."
This particular run calls for military boots to be on display, one boot for each service member who has died while on active duty since 9/11. This makes for a total of 3,500 pairs needed to represent approximately 6,810 U.S. service members who have died in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. In order to meet this goal, Soldiers, Family members, Veterans and other community members are encouraged to get involved in the effort by donating pairs of boots.
"We're going to have a boot per person, regardless of branch of service and regardless of type of boot," Conant said. "It's not all Army Soldiers. It's anyone -- Sailor, airmen and Marines."
Boots are being collected at the SOS building, 2703 Michigan Ave. on Fort Campbell. Donations can also be sent -- by FedEx or UPS only, as the building does not receive regular mail -- to that address. Boots are being collected through Oct. 1.
"They do not need to be in new or serviceable condition," Conant said, of the donations. "All boots in all colors from all branches of service are acceptable. Boots need to be laced up individually and have a small empty bottle turned upside down [in them]."
SOS is excited to host the Hero and Remembrance Run, Walk or Roll this year, after Tripler Army Medical Center Fisher House in Hawaii spearheaded the boot-lined run for the first time two years ago.
The run is expanding this year, with Tripler hosting their run Sept. 6, and Fort Hood and Fort Campbell both scheduled to jump on board, Nov. 1. Organizers feel it is especially important to continue to do events such as this one, and Conant said the boots will add a special, personal touch not seen in previous years at memorial runs.
"… You can see the impact that the war has had on our Families and the total number," Conant said.
Those donating boots should keep in mind that the boots will not be returned, as organizers hope to reuse the boots year after year. However, Soldiers, Family members and friends are welcome to send in boots decorated in honor of their service member. Boots honoring the same individual will be tied together for display purposes.
"It's meant as a therapeutic event, for both survivors and battle buddies," said SOS Program Manager Suzy Yates.
Surviving Family members attending Gold Star Family Appreciation Week, scheduled to begin Oct. 28, will have the opportunity to decorate a boot for their fallen service member.
Prior to the run, the boots will be tagged with each service member's name, date of death, rank, branch, etc. Each nameplate will include a photo and be color coded by year. A small American flag will also be paired with each boot.
"When the Family members come, we'll have them displayed and it will be grouped by year, so they'll know easier where to go in to see them," Conant said.
The boots will be on display throughout Gold Star Family Appreciation Week, but the location is still to be determined.
While SOS typically does not use volunteers in their regular operations in order to maintain the privacy of Gold Star Families, the program welcomes those wishing to help with the boot collection and pre-run coordination. For more information about the boot donation or to volunteer, call Conant at (270) 412-7251.
"It's a good way to give back to Gold Star Families," Yates added.