VICENZA, Italy -- It was raining soccer balls. Or so it seemed.

While clearing overgrown brush next to a soccer field in Arcugnano, Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment (Airborne) found ball after ball.

Too dense to make retrieval worth the soccer players' efforts, the bushes have been home to the stray balls for some time.

The stockpile of balls was found by 503rd Alpha Company troops during a July 29-30 community service project hosted by the unit. About 70 Soldiers participated.

"We launched this project in an effort to give back to a community that has been a magnificent host to American servicemen and their families for decades," said Alpha Company's Capt. Kevin M. Ward.

The Soldiers cleared a trail to and around a fountain, dug in and installed stairs up a well-trafficked hillside to connect a fountain in the location called Grancare Alte-created by an Italian WWI battalion-with a church on the top of a hill and cleared a three-mile long hiking trail in Lapio near Lago di Fimon.

"This was not simply an effort by A Co. 1-503rd, but rather a joint project with the administration of the Comune di Arcugnano, as well as the Arcugnano Alpini. The Arcugnano administration and the Alpini were instrumental in making this project a success," he added.

During meetings that took place in June and July, the project locations and details were finalized. Following these meetings, Alpha Co. leadership conducted several site recons.

The unit settled on three towns to focus their efforts: Lapio, Pianezze and Arcugnano, placing a platoon in charge of each area and supplemented by their headquarters platoon as needed.

"It is a nice way to work on developing a partnership between our community and the American community," said Arcugnano's town advisor, Antonia Menon, who was at the Pianezze fountain to express the community's appreciation.

Menon said the town is planning a September fest as a show of thanks to the unit, "and that will also give our communities the chance to meet."

"I think the community project overall was a success, bringing unity between the local community and U.S. military," said 1st Platoon's Sgt. Juan Nunez.

"The local community members were a big asset in the completion of our project due to their help and moral support and by providing us with tools, food and overall generosity," said Nunez. "There was a small issue with the language barrier, but we collectively got together and made a difference with the local community."

Giuliano D'Andrea, the U.S. Army Africa science advisor, has been a key liaison between the brigade and the Italian towns, including putting his language skills to good work coordinating the community service projects for each company.

Other companies in the battalion are conducting community service projects in Camisano, Creazzo and Costabissara.

Page last updated Fri August 14th, 2009 at 11:07