By Cheryl Rodewig, The BayonetOctober 30, 2009
Fort Benning, Ga. - SFC Shielda Groce, a Reserve Soldier with the Warrior Transition Battalion, won a four-day trip to Orlando, Fla., and Daytona Beach, Fla., Saturday at Boots on Broadway.
It was one of several giveaways donated during the community event by local businesses to thank service members, veterans and families.
"I go to Kuwait for six months, then I come back here for six months -18 months in the past three years - so I hadn't been on a vacation in a little while," said Groce, who returned from Kuwait in June. "This is very exciting."
Groce went to Boots on Broadway "just to enjoy the day, because it was a tribute to the military," she said.
"It makes you feel a part of it: the community, the activity, everything that's going on. It makes you feel welcomed," she said. "By doing these activities they show they appreciate what we do and they recognize that we are sacrificing ... making sure this country's safe and that we have the freedoms we do have. And that's an awesome thing, I think."
Other raffle prizes included a gas grill, a wedding ceremony and several gift certificates. The event also featured free karaoke, kickboxing, baseball throwing, a kissing booth, balloon animals, clowns, face painting and inflatables. Soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 29th Infantry Regiment, brought several military vehicles and weapons to display for the public. Community members set up booths along the street selling their wares.
"When they have things like this, it really does make us feel appreciated (for) what our husbands do to protect our country," said Sarah Campbell, who came out for the festival with her husband and two daughters.
"The kids have loved stopping at every station. They've had a blast. When the community comes together just for military families, it makes us feel special."
SFC Gordon Campbell, 2nd Battalion, 29th Infantry Regiment, said it's the first installation he's been to that has an event like Boots on Broadway.
"I'm glad we have it," he said.
More than 1,500 people attended Boots on Broadway Saturday, which is slated to become an annual affair, said Richard Bishop, president of UPtown Columbus and the Business Improvement District.
As a veteran, LTC(R) Samuel Nelson said he was glad to show support for the Soldiers, so they will be able to hold onto that as they deploy.
"I think it's a great event. Some of these guys will carry this day with them right here," said Nelson, pointing to his heart. "If you look around and you see the community supports you, it's a little more important than being told the community supports you. People believe what they see."