DESIGN DISTRICT, Miami - A group of Service members from the U.S. Army Garrison - Miami Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers took some timid, bold, graceful, unexpected and wondering steps into a different world March 19 at the opening of Miami Fashion Week.
"Oh, my God, I can't believe I'm really doing this."

As Staff Sgt. Christina Chislom walked gingerly down the pure white runway of Soho Studios in her Class B uniform, her nervousness turned to pride.

"People started clapping and flashbulbs started going off, it was a warm feeling," she said. "(Dayana Mendoza) complimented me on my walk!" gushed Sgt. 1st Class Sandra Thomas when she was finished. The current Miss Universe and Crystle Stewart, Miss USA 2009, attended the event as guest models. They watched the Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen with interest as they made their way down the runway.

The significance was not lost on organizer Steve Ondriezek, BOSS coordinator for the garrison Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation office.

When the BOSS group informed him that they wanted to do a fashion show, he contacted Beth Sobel, Miami Fashion Week organizer, to see if BOSS could get a discounted group rate to attend one of the shows.

Miami Fashion Week is one of the largest fashion exhibitions held here and is acclaimed in the international market.

"It sounded great, whether we would assist as volunteers or just attend," Chislom said.
Ondriezek, in the MWR career field for 23 years, found that Sobel was willing to go way above and beyond what they expected.

For starters, she offered to allow everyone to come free of charge to not one, but all three shows for the opening night. The invitation included the after party at the famous Eden Roc Hotel on Miami Beach.

"She then upped the offer to include group recognition in the opening night's press conference which had journalists, photographers, models and buyers from around the world attending," he said.

Then, if that was not enough, she offered BOSS members the chance to walk the runway as the opening to the show.

"This was all more than we ever imagined we would receive from one of the largest and most recognized international fashion shows in Miami," Ondriezek said.

The BOSS group received many cheers and claps from those in attendance, making it very positive for all. In the time between shows, the troops walked the many booths offering food and drink, regional jewelry designs, belts, purses, clothing items and accessories.

People took the time to personally thank them for their service. "It felt good," said AF TSgt. Fernando Magri.

The group stayed to watch a number of international designers display their latest creations of beach, town, evening and formal wear. Daring outfits using unconventional materials or design produced applause from the visiting buyers. One designer matched mother and daughter clothes, half of them worn by models about six years old. Their eager but camera-shy demeanor won over a business-oriented crowd.

"I used to model," Chislom said, "It took me back to when I was younger."

"We don't always affiliate with people in other segments of society, they don't usually know our lifestyle and we don't know theirs," she said. "It means a lot to me for them to extend us an invitation into their event."

"When I thanked (Beth) for all she had done to make it a memorable night for our group," Ondriezek said, "she told me it was the least she could do for all they do - and would be willing to help out any time."

"I've been here at the Garrison for six years working with BOSS," he said. "This is the first time we have participated in an event like this."

For those interested in participating in joining BOSS on their next adventure, contact your local representative.