ARLINGTON, Va. - With the onset of the winter months, many shelters across the national capital region will see an increase in people who are looking for a place to go in order to escape the cold. Soldiers of The Old Guard teamed up to ensure that those who are less fortunate would also have a warm meal when they got there.
Eighty soldiers assigned to1st Battalion, 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), carried more than 1,300 pounds of nonperishable food and supplies from Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall [JBM-HH], Va. to the Father McKenna Center in Washington, D.C. during a road march, Nov. 14.
Capt. Matthew Canada, chaplain, 1st Bn., 3rd U.S. Inf. Regt. (The Old Guard), gathered the soldiers together for a few words of encouragement prior to their journey.
“I prayed with them and told them how what they were doing was important,” said Canada. “We wanted to extend a helping hand to fill stomachs and hearts on this trip.”
The soldiers divided up the food and split into four groups. Spc. Jacob Caughey said it was easy to stay motivated throughout the five-mile march.
“All I could think about was how all the food we were carrying was going to help someone,” said Caughey, infantryman. “I felt great knowing that we were doing this public service.”
Once the soldiers reached the shelter, Gary Hines, associate director of the Father McKenna Center, said it was exciting to open his door to a sea of soldiers bearing gifts.
The center serves the physical, mental and spiritual needs of more than 29,000 men, women and children who have fallen on hard times.
“We are getting into our busiest time of the year so it was amazing how they walked from Fort Myer to bring all those packs of food,” said Hines. “They also helped pick-up trash and organized our building. They were great.”
Twelve of the 80 soldiers also stayed behind to help serve during the morning meal.
“I know that having green-suitors here would resonate well with the guys,” said Hines. “A lot of them are veterans, and for me, that means a lot.”
Hines added the men at the center aren’t forgotten people and the soldiers helped them realize that.
Kith Smith, a former service member who is also a frequent guest at the center, said it was really nice to see these soldiers care for them.
“It really made my day,” said Smith. “It made me feel so good on the inside.”
After the shelves were stocked, the food was served, and the building was cleaned, the soldiers and the guest at the center got a chance to sit down and get to know one another a little better.
“The soldiers shared pieces of their stories along with their struggles and deployments. It was so encouraging,” said Canada. “I truly believed that’s when we realized that we are more in common.”