Community serves up Christmas for 45th members

45th christmas 5

By Traci Chapman

In May 2010, Oklahoma National Guard and Army Reserves officially opened an armory they said they hoped would enhance Mustang and the surrounding communities.

On Sunday, those communities came together to bring some Christmas cheer to soldiers who serve their country there.

Volunteers headed by Lila Hoover, Sandy Malega and Kathy Matthews worked with Rhonda Yackeschi, 45th FIB family readiness support assistant, to serve Christmas dinner to more than 600 National Guard members and their families. Mustang preschool and elementary school students wrote letters and created works of art for the occasion, while soldiers’ children were able to visit with Santa. A magic show and ventriloquist were on hand for entertainment, and craft activities and music rounded out the day, said Col. Mike Chase, commander of the 45th FIB Oklahoma Army National Guard.

“The community’s support and hard work on this were beyond anything we could ever have asked,” Chase said. “We were overwhelmed with this wonderful event.”

National Guard members travel to Mustang on weekends to drill, with many of them working, attending school, or both, during the week. The extra time spent away from their families can be difficult, especially at the holidays, but this event – designed for soldiers with their families – was a unique experience.

“It was just over the top,” he said.

Hoover, who was appointed one of the brigade’s community representatives, said all of the hard work paled in comparison to the sacrifice of soldiers who gave so much of themselves for their country.

The 176,000-square-foot armory is the training site for about 1,400 soldiers, as well as about 140 soldiers who work full time there. The armory is also used by community groups, such as the Mustang Chamber of Commerce and others, for meetings and other uses.

“It was our honor and pleasure to be a part of this,” she said. “We cannot say enough about what they do every day or what they’ve done for our community since the armory was built here.”