By Art McQueen, USAG-Miami PAODecember 31, 2008
LIBERTY CITY ELEMENTARY, Miami, Fla. Aca,!" Members of the U.S. Southern Command Better Opportunities for Single Servicemembers group delivered Christmas cheer Dec. 18, to more than 200 school children in an area of Miami affected by tough economic times.
The delivery of gifts donated by US Southern Command and U.S. Army Garrison - Miami employees brought smiles to the childrenAca,!a,,cs faces. Those smiles - and the experience of giving and talking with the kids - in turn affected the troops. AF Staff Sgt. Christina Chislom, BOSS Vice President, said the generosity of those who gave gifts made it possible.
Working with Sheila Martinez, USAG-Miami Child and Youth Services School Liaison Officer; Chislom and BOSS President, Staff Sgt. Amanda Douglas visited area schools to see if they were interested in the program.
BOSS received 206 names from Liberty City Elementary. "We wrote their names, ages and hobbies on tags on a Christmas tree in the foyer of the (SOUTHCOM headquarters) conference room hallway," Chislom said.
All the tags were taken and all children helped. "On behalf of BOSS I want to thank everyone who selected a child's name and contributed a gift, you made those kids Christmases a little bit better."
"It was my first experience with kids this age, they were very grateful and surprised," said AF TSgt Marcus Perry, who credits his mother with raising his awareness of what is important in life.
"My mother always told me 'You are blessed, you just don't know it,'" he said. "It took her passing in 2005 for me to really see it - I was blessed to have her. You sometimes 'don't get it' until someone is out of your life."
Following his mother's death, Perry got involved in his unit's support of Meals on Wheels while at Fort Meade, and stuck with volunteering. "For the most part, you just want to give back," he said.
At Liberty City Elementary, he found that the children were curious about more than what was in the wrapped packages.
"They were interested in the military," he said, "and it was good to show them that they have other options in life. I think that my being African-American helped them connect with me. I would definitely do this again."
Chislom also was peppered with curiosity.
"What I did is talk with the kids before giving the presents," she said. "I had a roundtable where they would ask me questions. They were asking me if I have ever been to war, if I have to carry a gun, if I ever shot someone. What kind of job I have in the military."
Chislom said she would be participating in other events throughout the year.
"Our BOSS program tries to do positive things in the community. It's more than just taking group vacation trips or doing things in a social setting," she said, adding that the group is working on the yearly schedule now.
The US SOUTHCOM BOSS is open to servicemembers, civilians and contractors who are single, either legally or geographically. For more information about BOSS events, contact Staff Sgt. Chislom at (305) 437-2368.