RGAAF spruces up terminal for holidays
December 2, 2011
FORT HOOD, Texas - The lights of a twinkling Christmas tree will greet Soldiers arriving and departing Fort Hood's Robert Gray Army Airfield this holiday season thanks to the efforts of several local airfield volunteers and a patriotic friend from Wisconsin.
According to Bonnie Olsen, a regular RGAAF volunteer and the coordinator of the tree project, the idea came about last holiday season when she was working flights bound for theater.
"A few of us volunteers were looking out the windows (of RGAAF) at the Killeen Airport's Christmas trees. They were so beautiful all lit up. Some Soldiers waiting to deploy were standing with us, and one of them asked me why we didn't have a Christmas tree. I will never forget the look on that young man's face that day," she said. "I told him I did not know why, but I would find out. I couldn't get that young man's face out of my mind."
That one Soldier's simple question prompted her to approach Sherwood Brame, installation adjutant general and director of human resources at Robert Gray Army Airfield, to find out about the possibility of putting up a Christmas tree this year for the Soldiers. Brame consulted with the airfield administration and was soon able to give Olsen the go-ahead to put up a tree as long as the tree did not depict any particular religious group.
With a year to plan, Olsen had time to think about the project and make arrangements to decorate a tree military-style. A local Army surplus store donated old military uniforms to use in making military stockings, and her friend, Carole Nelson, from Green Bay, Wis., volunteered to do the work.
"All the materials (for the stockings) came from the Army Surplus store on Willow Springs Road," she said. "They were nice enough to save old ACUs and BDUs for us to cut up and mail back to Wisconsin to Carole. She made a few stocking samples and sent them back to us to see if they met our approval. Of course they did. We absolutely loved them."
Olsen explained that her friend Carole was recuperating from a life-threatening disease, but Carole made 25 military stockings for the Fort Hood project and an additional 170 that went to the 432nd Civil Affairs Army Unit in Afghanistan.
As Olsen mentioned the project to other volunteers, it was not long before several were on-board to help out.
John Footman, a member of the Military Order of the Purple Heart Central Texas Chapter 1876, agreed to donate a pre-lit tree. Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Richard Brunk of the Hood Mobilization Brigade donated yellow ribbons, while Lori Carpenter of the 3rd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Divison, April O'Neill of the 1st Cav. Div.'s 3rd BCT, Rebecca Schoffman from the American Red Cross and retired Col. Rosalie Roeder of Pray for a Soldier Team gathered additional decorations, or agreed to do work.
After a year's worth of coordination and work, the project came together. Armed with a tree, decorations and a plan, Olsen and the other eager volunteers arrived bright and early at the RGAAF terminal on Saturday morning and immediately went to work.
In little more than an hour, a unique twinkling tree, adorned with military stockings, yellow ribbons, traditional balls and a tree-topper, stood ready for the enjoyment of the many Soldiers who will come and go through the Fort Hood airfield during the holidays.
"We are all looking forward to making this holiday extra special for our American heroes," Olsen said.