FORT BELVOIR, Va. (May 17) -- Military Spouses at Fort Belvoir enjoyed a fun and relaxing night at the Fort Belvoir Community Center during the Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare & Recreation's Spouse Appreciation Day, last Friday.

Spouses were greeted by members of the Mount Vernon High School Navy JROTC and Edison High School Army JROTC who escorted them into the Community Center lounge, where snacks and drinks were available. Others walked on the "red carpet" and picked up a flower before entering the lounge.

The idea is to give the spouses an experience they've never had, according to Sherita Baker, DFMWR special events coordinator.

"It was nice being walked into the lounge by the cadets," said Abby Esson, George Washington Village resident.

The spouses that decided to take the back entrance enjoyed getting to walk on the "red carpet" and viewed the cadets being at the event as a nice gesture.

"We didn't get walked in by the cadets, but it was nice seeing them in their uniforms," said Pjay Rurks of Dogue Creek village. "We did get to walk on the red carpet, though, and get our flower."

The Cadets enjoyed escorting the spouses and contributing to a good cause.
"I like how these organizations run their programs," said Cadet 1st Lt. Denise McGarity, Mount Vernon High School Navy JROTC. "They are very organized and for a good cause, so I really enjoy being here."

The opportunity for the Cadets to practice military discipline is why retired Army Col. Walter DeHoust, Mount Vernon JROTC department chair, said he decided to get involved.

"This event will force them to make decisions and get themselves organized and follow directions," said DeHoust. "The (cadets) enjoy it because they get to apply the things they've learned in terms of military bearing and poise, cooperation and teamwork."

Baker felt the event, her first as Spouse Appreciation Day coordinator, went well.

"We set-out to have a well-attended program with many avenues for the spouses to meet and network," she said. "The lounge area, patio and lawn proved to be very popular and guests mingled and enjoyed a break from visiting sponsor and vendor tables. We were so fortunate to have favorable weather for the outdoor activity."

Rurks came to the event for the second consecutive year and reveled in the opportunity to meet new spouses. She met her friend, Coleen Scales of Woodlawn Village at the event last year, and is happy to add to her group of friends.

"I was new to post last year, and came to this event for the first time," Rurks said. "That's when I met Coleen and a bunch of other people and we've been very close ever since. If it wasn't for this event, I probably never would've met them."

Along with the free snacks, spouses had nearly 50 vendors to mingle with and learn about their businesses.

Pampered Chef, Belvoir Credit Union, McEnearney Associates, Sarah's Diaper Creations, Army Community Service and USA Discounters were among the vendors at the event.

"I like the vendors and I like the fact there are massage therapists on both sides of the ballroom," Rurks said. "Last year there were three massage tables for like 300 people."

Fort Belvoir Garrison Commander, Col. John J. Strycula and his wife, Wendy, spoke to spouses to kick off the event.

Strycula said he is not at the event as an Army officer, but as Wendy's husband and even though he will have to take off his Army uniform one day, the one uniform he never wants to take off is as Wendy's spouse.

Wendy shared how she and Strycula met, and shared the three values every military spouse needs: To be thankful, Proud and Support one another.

She closed her remarks by saying every Belvoir spouse "deserves tonight."

"Both of their remarks seemed heartfelt and genuine," said Kriss Layne, Woodlawn Village resident. "We know that they know where all of us are coming from."

"They make you feel like you are special and they do this for us," added Rurks.

Having a night dedicated to them is a nice treat for the spouses on post.

"I like to be appreciated every now and then, so it's a special night for spouses," said Tangelyn Clemmons, Gerber Village resident. "It's a friendly environment that allows everyone to meet and greet. I think it's very nice."

Now that she has this event under her belt, Baker said she knows which services spouses enjoyed and which one's they don't. She said next year's event will be better having this knowledge.

"Now we know what works and what needs to be scaled back or tweaked a bit for next year," said Baker. "We will have a lot more advance prep time to work more closely with our sponsors, vendors and staff to achieve an even more quality Community event."