Military spouses in the National Capital Region enjoyed massages, created flip books and made new friends during a Military Spouse Appreciation Night Masquerade party, Friday, at the Fort Belvoir Community Center.
Spouses wore masks, a few painted their faces and some even wore festive colors in their hair as part of the night's celebration. Mainly, they just enjoyed having a night for themselves to get out and socialize.
"It's awesome because a lot of times we stay at home and take care of our Families," said Danielle Merryman, Woodlawn Village resident. "This shows appreciation for what we do behind the scenes to make sure our Family's morale stays positive while our husbands are gone."
Appetizer-like food like meatballs, chicken tenders, pigs in a blanket and egg rolls were provided, as were cheese, crackers, and veggie trays. The Army Blues Combo band also played the duration of the night to provide a calm, laid-back atmosphere for the spouses to enjoy.
"We wanted to recognize the spouses and show them appreciation for everything they do," said Romel Voellm, Fort Belvoir Community Center, special events coordinator. "We wanted to give them a night to get away from everything they do and relax."
The event was an interesting experience for Merryman since it was her first one as a military spouse.
"I'm prior service, so I wouldn't normally be at something like this," said Merryman. "It's interesting because as a single female Soldier, you don't talk to the spouses much. So, now I'm actually seeing what goes on behind the scenes and it's pretty cool."
Prizes were given out at the end of the night, one of which was for the best costume. Milena Gidding, Lewis Village resident, won the best costume award with purple and black hair coloring and black and gold makeup covering her eyes.
"I'm elated," said Gidding of winning the award. "I didn't expect to win anything; I just wanted to show off my makeup skills and maybe drum up some business."
Gidding has her own makeup business which includes makeup for weddings and proms. Her husband is deployed, so Gidding enjoyed having "in-person" time with her fellow military spouses.
"It's nice to relax and socialize with one another in real-time instead of Facebook," said Gidding. "It's nice to be around fellow spouses who understand what I am going through and give me support and encourage me to stay strong."
Spouses like Aleisa Russell liked that the event was on the Friday of Mother's Day weekend. Russell and her husband live at Marine Corps Base Quantico, so Russell enjoyed being with her fellow military spouses.
"This is Mother's Day weekend, so I wanted to be around my military spouses," said Russell. "We don't have many opportunities to be in the same location at the same time. So, even if it's only annually, I appreciate us being together because there are a lot of issues we all go through."
Russell met Rosa Foddrell, an Alexandria resident, during the event and they decided to do a flip book together. Foddrell's husband is in the Army and stationed at Fort Belvoir.
"I came last year and it was so much fun, so I thought it would be fun again," said Foddrell. "I made some friends tonight that I know I will continue to hang out with in the future."
Along with the flip book, Russell and Foddrell entered several of the raffles vendors were offering and talked with other spouses. They both liked having the opportunity to bond with other spouses.
"The military community is a unique way of life," said Russell. "The community provides so much, so it's important we have these opportunities to bond together as a Family."
At the end of the night, Voellm was just happy to show military spouses that the hard work they do doesn't go unnoticed.
"I just think they do a lot," said Voellm. "Their husbands are out, so they stay home with the children and have to deal with that every day knowing their husbands are gone. So, it's important they know we recognize what they do as well and not just the Soldiers."