FORT BLISS, Texas -- Soldiers deployed overseas from Fort Bliss always have the support of their units and families here while they are gone. Now the Fort Bliss community has an additional way to show their support to those soldiers. They are going to “Walk a Mile in my Soldiers Boots”.
On January 21, Fort Bliss Morale, Welfare and Recreation, in partnership with USAA and the Exchange, started a program to “walk” the equivalent distance from Fort Bliss to Iraq or Afghanistan, more than 7,300 miles and 7,800 mile respectively.
Sun Gaskey, a sports fitness management trainee, developed the idea as a way to get the Fort Bliss community involved in supporting elements of both the 3rd and 4th Brigade Combat Team while they are deployed. Assigned here by Installation Management Command, Gaskey developed a program that would encompass all members of the community, Soldiers, spouses and civilians.
“I wanted to get the whole of Fort Bliss involved,” said Gaskey.
The program was developed as a way for the community to support deployed soldiers and as a way for the family members to relieve stress and get some exercise Gaskey said.
With more than 350 people signed up, the event started at noon, Jan. 21, at the Stout gym athletic field with a 5k walk around the track. For the next two months, participants will meet at 6:30 pm to walk 3 miles. A pedometer was provided to each participant to help track progress.
Those who cannot make the Tuesday night walks, or want to earn bonus miles, can earn miles through other activities such as working out at any Fort Bliss physical fitness center, joining in a fitness class, running on their own or even by losing weight.
Gaskey said that most of the bonus miles would be tallied through an honor system, but that if a fitness class is used for bonus mile, signing in to the class is all that is required.
Two t-shirts are also being given to each person who signed up. Gaskey said she intended for one shirt to go to the person participating, and if they are a spouse of a deployed soldier, that the second shirt would be sent down range to the deployed soldier.
Gaskey is excited at the response she received to the event. While most of the participants are military members, spouses and family members, many units and community groups have stepped forward to show their support. On Saturday, members of the 93rd Military Police Battalion, Fort Bliss Fire Department and William Beaumont Army Medical Center were present.
The main theme for Saturday was support for the soldiers deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Lt. Col Myranda Vereen and Sgt. Maj. Paul Ambersley, William Beaumont Army Medical Clinic Troop Command, lead a large contingent of soldiers from WBAMC and the 7222nd Medical Support Unit.
“This is a show of esprit de corps and support for our deployed soldiers and their families,” said Vereen.
Teachers and student from Logan Elementary also took part in the march. Sheila Joplin, wife of Staff Sgt. Leonard Joplin, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery Brigade, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, is the Parental engagement Leader for the school. One of the parents had been approached by Gaskey to join the march. The school decided to organize a group of students and teachers into a “unit” as all branches of military service are represent in the kids of the school.
“We support our troops.” said Joplin, “This is also a good way for healthier living.”
Several family members were in the march to show their support to their deployed soldier. Kelby and Brynna Shepard were on hand as part of a group from the Milam Youth Activity Center. Both girls were there Saturday for their father, Sgt. Maj. Scott Shepard, 1st Battalion, 13th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, who has been deployed to Afghanistan for about six months.
Angie Pope and here three children, Mackenzie, Taylor and Gavin, were marching to support Sgt. Adam Pope, Alpha Company, Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division.
“We are here to support my husband and all the troops,” Pope said.
The marchers left Mitchell W. Stout Physical Fitness Center for the first 5-kilometers, taking them out on to the streets of Fort Bliss, passing the post bowling center, before heading down to the turn around point at the end of Ricker Road and heading back to Stout PFC.
The march ended to music and a raffle of prizes for the participants. Over the next two months many will come to Stout gym to continue to show their support of our Fort Bliss soldiers down range.
“It’s about the Fort Bliss community,” said Gaskey, “We don’t forget our soldiers.”