Magazine article VFW Magazine

VFW Shines at Deployment

Magazine article VFW Magazine

VFW Shines at Deployment

Article excerpt

In Arizona, Ladies Auxiliary hosts party for families of National Guard unit.

Kim Sloan of Tucson, Ariz., remembers what it was like when her husband was deployed during the Persian Gulf War. And she remembers his deployment ceremony and how she felt That's part of the reason she wanted the local VFW and Ladies Auxiliary members to spearhead an event for the 1st Battalion, 285th Aviation Regiment (Arizona National Guard).

A member of Auxiliary Post 10188, Sloan began meeting with National Guard officials in July 2006 to plan what would become the "Silver Bells Send-Off" on Jan. 2. She said it wasn't long before she realized it was growing bigger than anyone had anticipated.

"What started out as a local VFW event, morphed into something huge," said Sloan, Ladies Auxiliary District 5 president. "So many different groups like the Chamber of Commerce got on board."

District 5 became the core group of volunteers for the event. VFW National Headquarters funded about 90% of the deployment ceremony with a $12,000 donation from Military Assistance Program funds. Businesses like the restaurant Texas Roadhouse offered deep discounts while others provided in-kind donations.

Nearly 3,000 people turned out to wish the more than 450 soldiers well. The family-oriented event included grilled hamburgers and hot dogs, plus potato salad and more.

"We focused our energy on children's activities for the day," Sloan said. "It was important to make this a positive experience for the children. It was sad and there were tears, but for the kids it was a fun event."

Inflatable jumping castles were set up, as well as a photo booth where the children could have their pictures taken with their soldiers and create frames. Each child made two-one to take home and one for their soldier to deploy with.

The unit's family readiness group provided teddy bears, and District 5 Auxiliary members distributed them to the children. …

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