By Dawn Arden (Leonard Wood)December 6, 2017
For Soldiers in training taking leave and heading home for Holiday Block Leave, the excitement is building as the date nears, but what about those who are staying at Fort Leonard Wood for the holidays?
Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation and the USO of Missouri have teamed up again this year to ensure Soldiers in training assigned to the holdover company also have a joyous holiday.
According to LoraLee Neubeck, FMWR special events coordinator, the Fort Leonard Wood FMWR has been organizing events for Soldiers staying behind for more than 25 years.
"Each year we coordinate with the holdover company in advance to provide a variety of options for them to choose from," Neubeck said. "MWR hopes that providing a wide range of activities to the Soldiers in training during the holiday season will improve their quality of life while awaiting the resumption of training."
Activities enjoyed in past years have included trips to professional football and hockey games, museums and skiing in the St. Louis and Kansas City areas; trips to Branson for shows, Silver Dollar City and other attractions; and trips closer to home like shopping, laser tag, movies and dinner at Osage Beach.
Neubeck said over the years the holdover company has consistently listed a few trips as their favorites.
"The trip to St. James to spend time with the residents of the St. James Veteran's Home is very enlightening and enjoyable for the veterans and the new Soldiers," Neubeck said. "The Soldiers enjoy talking with the veterans, playing cards and other games or activities."
She said a trip to Springfield's Bass Pro Shop has been on the agenda for 13 years and still rates as one of the preferred trips.
For many years, the USO of Missouri has been supporting Holiday Block Leave at their facility in the St. Louis airport, keeping Soldiers entertained and giving them a safe and comfortable space to wait for their flights home.
"Since opening the Fort Leonard Wood USO facility in 2006 we have been able to step up our support by teaming with MWR, who has always done a great job in coming up with programs," said Kelly Brownfield, Fort Leonard Wood USO director. "We just helped fill in the gaps, and over the years we have worked together to come up with a schedule that accommodates our troops staying behind. We are joining forces to serve those who serve for a great cause."
In addition to the off-post trips, there are many activities that take place at the various MWR facilities on the installation, as well at the USO.
"We have a lot of fun planning our events for the holidays, but I would have to say one of our favorite events occurs on Christmas Eve," Brownfield said. "We welcome our troops in to enjoy a traditional (holiday meal) on Christmas Eve. This meal takes a lot of hard work and dedication by our staff and volunteers, and seeing our troops sitting down enjoying all the foods of the holiday while laughing and smiling definitely fills your heart."