CAMP SABALU-HARRISON, Afghanistan – More than 200 soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines dressed in costume gathered here for, the “Monster Mash 5K Dash”, an event held in the dark hours to celebrate a holiday of tricks and treats.
U.S. Army Sgt. Brittani DaSilva, Task Force Vigilant senior intelligence analyst, and native of Monona, Iowa, planned, coordinated and hosted the event in hopes of bringing service members together to have some fun.
“I have always loved Halloween and thought it would be fun and soldiers thought it would be cool to wear costumes,” said DaSilva. “It was for the soldiers so they could have fun and forget, for one night, that they are in Afghanistan.”
Service members ran the 5K dressed as super heroes and goblins to drink a witches’ brew, consisting of Sprite and Gatorade, out of a caldron at the finish line. Every runner received a Halloween bag filled with goodies from Halloween candy to homemade jelly and a t-shirt.
DaSilva received generous donations from family members who were proud of her efforts to organize this event. She spent over 45 hours putting together the entire event, from cutting plastic buckets to resemble pumpkins and stuffing all the Halloween bags, to decorating jelly jars and numerous other creative additions to the theme.
“My family thought it was really neat that I was doing this and putting on this race for the soldiers and they thought it sounded like a lot of fun,” said DaSilva “They were really proud of me and they wanted to do what they could to help out.”
Her mother, Dianne Philpott, made and donated over 180 jars of jelly with custom made Halloween printed lids. Additionally, her husband, Manuel DaSilva, a teacher at Toms River Intermediate South Middle School in N.J., donated engraved medals and thermoses for the winners and several bags of Halloween candy he collected from the staff at his school.
DaSilva describes a conversation with her mother, via Skype, when she revealed, to DaSilva, she was making jelly. Her mother appeared to tear up when she explained it was for all the runners. Her father also assisted in the effort smashing all the grapes. Together, over 16 hours were spent making jelly at home.
“I thought the soldiers would enjoy something from home much better than candy,” said Philpott. “I really hope the soldiers enjoy it. I know I enjoyed every minute of making the jelly for all the troops in the Monster Mash 5K Dash.”
Her husband was very proud of her and wanted to contribute any way he could.
“As an American history teacher, I have the privilege of teaching our youth about the sacrifices that brave men and women make while serving the United States,” said Manuel. “I decided to contribute in order to show my appreciation for the soldiers partaking in the Monster Mash 5k Dash event.”
Participants said that this event raised the spirits of all those here and made this Halloween memorable.
“This event really boosted my morale a lot, I was looking forward to it all day,” said Spc. Valorize Swift, 212 Combat Support Hospital patient administration clerk. “I was so excited to get ready and I had a lot of fun.”
“Dressed as Superman out here during this wonderful event, it boosted us not just physically but mentally,” said Staff Sgt. William Tulloch, 724th Military Police Battalion detainee service branch senior enlisted advisor to the Afghan National Army. “The monotony of every day just went out the window.”
Col. Zane Jones, 18th Military Police Brigade commander, presented DaSilva with an Army Achievement Medal to recognize her dedication to the troops.
“This was the most well planned and executed event I have seen,” said Jones. “She gave the service members an opportunity to let their hair down, relax and have some fun to relieve the stresses of their day to day operations.”
DaSilva’s hard work and dedication to all service members did not go unnoticed as she was thanked at the end of the night by many who said this was a happy Halloween to remember.