• Volunteers brief Soldiers on the history of military working dogs during an organized visit to Fort Jackson's Basic Combat Training museum during Victory Block Leave.

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    Volunteers brief Soldiers on the history of military working dogs during an organized visit to Fort Jackson's Basic Combat Training museum during Victory Block Leave.

  • Basketball games keep Soldiers active and occupied.

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    Basketball games keep Soldiers active and occupied.

  • Holdover Soldiers warm up for games of volleyball inside the Solomon Center during Victory Block Leave, which shut down training operations at Fort Jackson for two weeks.

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    Holdover Soldiers warm up for games of volleyball inside the Solomon Center during Victory Block Leave, which shut down training operations at Fort Jackson for two weeks.

  • Holdover Soldiers are treated to a catered dinner and a free showing of A Night At the Museum at the Army Chaplain Center and School's Fox Lab. The USO event was meant to boost morale among Soldiers who did not go home for the holidays.

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    Holdover Soldiers are treated to a catered dinner and a free showing of A Night At the Museum at the Army Chaplain Center and School's Fox Lab. The USO event was meant to boost morale among Soldiers who did not go home for the holidays.

FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Activities on Fort Jackson slowed to a crawl during the final weeks of 2012.

Victory Block Leave began Dec. 19, sending thousands of Soldiers home for the holidays for two weeks. But, a few hundred Soldiers opted to stay behind. For some, the time and expense involved with going home for the holidays made the idea counterproductive.

"Home," wherever that might be, was sometimes just too far away to reach, even with two weeks of leave.

"I want to save money so that, when I get home, I can start my life over," said Pvt. Mathis Evans, of Memphis, Tenn. He was among the dozens of Soldiers to take part in tours of the post's various museums during the break.

"It's not boring. They keep us busy at all times," he said. "I'm going on as many trips as possible and trying to stay active. I'm trying to keep a positive attitude while we're on Victory Block Leave."

For others, it was just too difficult to travel to the other side of the globe.

Pvt. Prince Rechebei is from the Republic of Palau in the South Pacific, and said he enjoyed the opportunity to see more of America during his break from Basic Combat Training.

"I wanted to see what South Carolina has to offer," Rechebei said. "And the activities have been really good. We're getting to see the history of the Army. I'm from the Pacific, and World War II was fought there really hard."

The island of Peleliu is in the southern part of his country, and is still remembered as the site of one of the bloodiest battles of World War II, he said.

It hasn't been all fun and games during break. Pvt. Dustin Waller, of Baton Rouge, La., said many of the Soldiers on break from Basic Combat Training were rousted out of bed each morning for beautification detail.

"Around 11 a.m. we have free time," he said. "There are some fun activities. They take us on free trips here and there, when they have the opportunity. We've gone to football games, ice skating and some other fun things."

"It was my first time ice skating," he said. "It was actually pretty fun."

Even if they weren't with their families, the Soldiers came together to create a family unit of their own. Evans said several family-style gatherings took place that let them interact with each other, and the community at large.

"We just finished a housing building project for families in need," he said.

Unfamiliar with South Carolina, the Tennessee native could only say the project was "somewhere in the Columbia area."

"During leave, we've mostly seen local areas," Waller said. "But, I took a couple of passes and was able to go to Charleston. They keep us pretty occupied. There's a movie room back at the battalion, MWR game room, access to basketball courts."

Page last updated Thu January 10th, 2013 at 00:00