FORT RILEY, Kan. - Families and friends of deployed Soldiers gathered together to honor those Soldiers during a luminary event.

About 250 people attended the inaugural Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers Candle Lighting Ceremony Dec. 17 at Riley's Conference Center.

"This was really nice because it was a chance for us to put our prayers out for Daddy and have the kids feel like they're doing something to celebrate the holidays with Daddy," said Kerry Campbell, who attended the event with her children, Natalie, 5, and Bobby, 2.

Campbell's husband, Pvt. Thomas Campbell, Company C, 1st Battalion, 63rd Armor Regiment, 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, deployed in October to Baghdad.

Campbell's Family and others in attendance wrote the names of deployed Soldiers and decorated luminary bags, which were then lined up outside to form a Christmas tree with a "Big Red One" numeral in the middle, along with "Happy Holidays."

"(Natalie and Bobby) were really excited about coloring the bags, and when they saw everything lit up, that was really exciting for them to see the end-product of their creation," Campbell said.

Campbell and her children also decorated luminary bags for single Soldiers her husband is serving with, as well as a Family friend, she said. She took a photo of the luminary bags and sent it to all of them.

"All little things like this make a difference for the kids, when they're having a hard time, especially," Campbell said. "This was a hard week for (Natalie), so this was a good end to a difficult week. This was great for our Family, and this was a fun night."

Spc. Jason Samson, BOSS president, said he was very excited about the attendance of the first-time event, which was originally set up just to honor single Soldiers.

"I was talking to some (Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation) people, and we realized that this was a great event, and we need to open it to everyone," Sansom said. "I wasn't trying to be selfish with the whole idea or anything, but it was a very great event."

Sansom said he came up with the idea for the event in an effort to honor Soldiers in his unit.

"I'm part of 2nd (HBCT), in Alpha Company, (1st Bn., 63rd Armor Regt.), and my unit has been deployed to Iraq," he said. "I wanted to do something for them because I'm still here. When you're in the Army, it's more like Family than friends. These are the people that you spend every day with. I miss every one of them, and I wanted to do something to honor them and let them know that we're thinking about them here."

In addition to the luminary bags at the event, there was ornament making, Sgt. Riley's Puppet Show, coloring books, snacks and a showing of, "How the Grinch Stole Christmas."

"I'm looking forward to doing it next year, bigger and better," Sansom said.

For more information about BOSS, call 785-239-2677.

Page last updated Wed December 22nd, 2010 at 17:04