On Line
Pvt. Travis Williams lines up for a shot at the free pool tables during the sixth annual Salute to the Military on Nov. 23 at the Diane Campbell Recreation Center.

Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation workers don't just use words to express their gratitude to Soldiers and Marines.

They render a salute with a special evening each year.

The Diane Campbell Recreation Center was host for the sixth annual Salute to the Military on Nov. 23. This free event for the troops served up food, entertainment and prizes.

"Their service means everything to us," Brian Marbrey, Diane Campbell Recreation Center assistant manager, said. "This is a way to put that into action with something they can see and feel."

Each room of the center held its own entertainment. The ever-popular video game tournament returned this year. Besides the games and consoles provided by the center, Soldiers were welcome to bring their own games. Every genre of gaming made an appearance, from Halo and Call of Duty down to Guitar Hero and Spore.

In the main room, the pool tables maintained a steady supply of would-be pool sharks throughout the evening. After letting everyone warm up with open play, the action got serious as the formal tournament began. When the lank ball hit the pocket, Pvt. Jeremy Murray took home the 22-inch flat panel television to the Marine Detachment.

The night held a few new options for servicemembers in attendance. The center has recently added a digital jukebox. Free Internet access was available. Attendees were also able to call home free of charge. Rooms were set aside for the musically inclined to play whatever struck their fancy. Every room big enough for a few comfortable chairs and a television played the newest DVD releases all evening.

"The marketing department has really stepped up to plan this," Marbrey said.

The star of the night, however, was the array of goodies offered on the buffet. Set up inside the rec center ballroom, the buffet wrapped around three sides of the room. The Officers and Civilians Club catered a majority of the full Thanksgiving meal. Local businesses provided specialty items, including Lawlers' Barbecue, Atlanta Bread Company, Hooters and Firehouse Subs. The dessert selection, so large it was divided between two rooms, included cakes from local bakeries and Purity ice cream.

"We brought enough food to feed an army," O' Club chef Ben Howard quipped.

Prizes were awarded for the various tourneys and door prizes were distributed. They ranged from gift certificates from national retailers to electronic items. Included on the list were television/DVD player combinations, game consoles and MP3 players.

Garrison commander Col. Bob Pastorelli took up post by the door, shaking the hand of every attendee as he asked them about home and their training. This was his first time at such an event, and he had a great time.

"Any time you're around Soldiers and doing something for Soldiers it just gives you an inner sense of healing -- that you're doing something great," Pastorelli said. "The Soldiers deserve this. They've made sacrifices and they will probably make sacrifices in the future. I think it's important that we're here to support them. It's a way to show our appreciation."

The event has always been well attended. This year it drew more than 600 troops, up from last year's 500.

"Since I just got here yesterday, I probably won't get to go home for Thanksgiving. It's just too far," Pvt. Jose Peralta, a New York native, said. "My wife is pregnant. The baby is due next week. I'm really missing her. This helps. There's lots of food and things to do here."

Many of the attendees are at Redstone for advanced individual training. Even though most are here for a short time, Marbrey said FMWR hopes to make a lasting impression.

"We're giving them all we have while they're here," he said. "We want them to have good memories of Redstone. We want them to know how much they mean to us."

Page last updated Wed December 3rd, 2008 at 14:37