By April 13, 2017
FORT SILL, Okla. (April 13, 2017) -- It was Jett Gunter's first time competing in the 2017 Special Olympics Games, and when he crossed the finish line of the 15-meter dash, he did it as the first-place winner.
"I did a good job, I earned my first-place ribbon," said Jett holding up his ribbon. "I wasn't nervous, I just had fun."
Jett, 15, a Trinity Christian Academy student, was one of 428 competitors in the regional qualifier of the Special Olympics, April 7 at Prichard Field on Fort Sill.
Running alongside Jett during his run was Pvt. Carson Stewart, B Battery, 2nd Battalion, 6th Air Defense Artillery. Stewart joined Jett during the competition, cheering him on along the way well, for as long as Stewart could keep up.
"He left me behind," said Stewart. "He wasn't nervous. He was really comfortable."
Entrants participated in competitions ranging from runs, walks, standing long jump, running long jump, softball throw and more.
Those too young to compete in the Special Olympics could participate in "Stars of the Future" at Honeycutt Fitness Center just a few blocks away.
The Stars of the Future event provided young would-be competitors a functional area with activities and one-on-one escorts to take them from place to place.
At both locations Soldiers from throughout Fort Sill helped run the competitions or cheered on participants.
Becki Kinard, Jett's mother, said she is touched by and values support from the community. Stewart, along with hundreds of other Soldiers, joined with students from 30 schools to help support the event.
"First of all, this being our first time and being with military, I'm on the verge of tears just sitting here because I'm so proud," said Kinard. "I think it's an awesome, awesome thing they do."
Stewart, who met Jett that day, said in the short time they have interacted, Stewart has learned a great deal.
"He's a great kid, great to talk to," said Stewart. "He's taught me so much and we've already become good friends."
Creating experiences for competitors and Soldiers was one of the many goals of the event, said Col. David Baxter, 30th Air Defense Artillery Brigade commander, who organized the event.
"You have young Soldiers out here who may or may not have family members that participate in events like this," he said. "It gives them a sense of perspective, a sense of something bigger than themselves. We do this because it's the right thing to do. It makes our community and our surrounding communities stronger, and this is just one of the examples of that partnership."
"The games took months to plan and prepare for," said Capt. Cassandra Steiner, 30th ADA Brigade, who was the master of ceremonies for the event.
Steiner said she was fortunate to participate last year, and that she hoped the event showed how committed Soldiers are to being active in the community.
"It's important to stop for just a day and give back to our local community through this outstanding event," she said.
With all the planning, the organizers were still surprised when a T-38 Talon II from Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, flew over the crowd during the singing of the national anthem. Organizers said the flyover was an unexpected, but perfectly-timed, surprise.