GLENS FALLS, N.Y. – New York National Guard volunteers joined hundreds of military family members, veterans, and gold star families for the 20th annual Christmas Eve road march in support of military personnel currently deployed overseas during the holidays.
The first march was conducted in 2004 in support of the New York Army National Guard’s Company C, 2nd Battalion, 108th Infantry while deployed to Iraq during the holidays.
Sgt. 1st Class Arthur Coon, a local Army National Guard recruiter, and his wife Julie, organized the march with Soldiers assigned to another local unit, the 466th Area Support Medical Company, to honor the deployed troops.
Ten Soldiers participated that year, and it has grown exponentially in the 20 years since, Coon said.
Coon said that he is overwhelmed with the amount of community support he has received over the years.
“Thinking back over the last 20 years, well, first of all, it makes me feel old,” Coon joked. “But seriously, we are asking people to come here, hike about four miles in the cold, on Christmas Eve. And every year I am amazed at the turnout,” Coon said.
Participants are mostly from the Glens Falls area and surrounding neighborhoods, but many others come from across New York, Vermont, and one Marine private who participated with his family while visiting from his assignment in Japan.
While it started off in support of the 108th Infantry Soldiers, the annual march has since grown in scope to honor all servicemembers who are away for the holidays.
Also attending the march this year was first term Glens Falls mayor, Bill Collins.
Collins said he was inspired to attend by his own son, who is a New York National Guard member stationed in Buffalo and a college student at the Rochester Institute of Technology.
“I couldn’t be prouder of my son, and through him, this event has special meaning to me,” Collins said. “I’m so blessed to be here with you all, and to me what this is all about is family. Always family.”
Another objective of the march is to encourage donations to pay for the postage of care packages to be sent to troops around the world, through to the efforts of Hope Rosati-Frettoloso, who has raised over $11,000 herself over the years.
Joining recruiters and other military march participants were a dozen new enlistees of the New York Army National Guard.
Spc. Anthony Prastio, who returned home to Ballston Spa, N.Y., on holiday leave from his Army Advanced Individual Training at Fort Eustis to become a helicopter mechanic, participated in the march for the first time.
“It feels great to be here, to be involved in the community, and show them that we are still here and will always be there for them and each other,” Prastio said.
|GLENS FALLS, NY, US
This work, NY National Guard Soldiers Volunteer for Christmas Eve Road March, by SSG Matthew Gunther, identified by DVIDS, must comply with the restrictions shown on https://www.dvidshub.net/about/copyright.