By Tribune staffJune 14, 2018
FORT SILL, Oklahoma (June 14, 2018) -- Nothing compares to a dip in a cool lake on a hot Oklahoma day.
Swimming was just one of the many outdoor recreational events offered at Lake Elmer Thomas Recreation Area (LETRA) June 9, during the Military Appreciation Family Fun Day.
Thousands of service members, their families, and civilians were treated to a day of free fitness activities, food, and music, as well as information about services available at Fort Sill.
The annual event aimed at the Lawton-Fort Sill community was a time for families to meet each other, said Brenda Spencer-Ragland, Fort Sill Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation director.
"The members of the community come out and they get to know the Soldiers, their families, and our Marines here, while we get to know and build relationships with our community," she said. "They can also find out what's available in the Lawton-Fort Sill community both on and off the installation."
Virtually all the activities normally offered through LETRA were open during the four-hour event, said Tenille Russell, LETRA director.
This included the water slide, canoes, kayaks, paddleboats, paddleboards, miniature golf, archery, and a rock climbing wall.
"We had paintball earlier, but we had to tear it down because the winds got too high -- it was a giant inflatable," she said. "Everything here promotes healthy outdoor living, so you're soaking up vitamin D along with it."
About 50 volunteers from military units and the community helped run the activities, from serving food to directing parking to providing music, Spencer-Ragland said.
"The volunteers included the 77th Army Band (Center Fire rock band), truly 'The Pride of Fort Sill,'" she said. "People come here to hear the band."
At one booth, Army Community Service (ACS) staff provided information on all ACS programs and services. James Keith Powers, Survivor Outreach Services director, was one of those working at the table.
"What we've learned is that a lot of Soldiers know about only one or two ACS programs, but miss out on others so we're here telling them about those," he said.
In addition to literature for adults, the ACS booth provided jump ropes, footbags, and stress-ball puzzles; and held Hula-Hoop competitions for the children.
It's all part of the Healthy Army Communities initiative to promote fitness and wellness, Powers said.
Staff Sgt. Zachary Rosser, 30th Air Defense Artillery Brigade Patriot missile course instructor, manned a table promoting the Fort Sill Chapter of the Sergeant Audie Murphy Club (SAMC). There were giveaways like water and patriotic pins; and lollipops for children.
He said the Family Appreciation Day was just one of the many community events the club participates in throughout the year.
Numerous sponsors helped make the event a success, Spencer-Ragland said. "We could not do this without our sponsorship, without our support from the local community. They not only sponsor, they advertise and help tell the story."
Sponsors included the Lawton-Fort Sill Co-op, Total Nutrition, Lawton Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, Ram, SAMC, Lawton Kia, USAA, and the Fort Sill Federal Credit Union, said Logan Ralston, MWR Commercial Sponsorship and Advertising account executive.
Jamie Southerland, Lawton-Fort Sill Chamber of Commerce interim president/CEO, said the chamber's Lawton-Fort Sill Co-op Committee has a long history of partnering with Fort Sill for family events.
"This is one of the main events and we look forward to every year because we can come out and play with our neighbors and enjoy the sunshine and the beach," she said.