Home Economy A break in routine for region’s military families

A break in routine for region’s military families

Rose Schaetzl of Affordable Housing Conservancy in Gardiner hands out treats.

For the more than 6,000 members of active and retired military families, Family Appreciation Day at Stewart Air National Guard Base was an opportunity to put worry, grieving and painful separations on the back burner – if only for a few hours.

Food cooked and served by restaurateur Joe Bonura and volunteer staff in a portable kitchen with food donations from ShopRite, Dana Distributors and other vendors provided food, snacks, desserts and beverages that seemed to keep coming throughout the day.

“These families bear burdens most of us can’t even begin to understand,” said one volunteer who gave his name as “Ordinary Joe.”  He was one of many who threw off his title and donned an apron, dumping wastebaskets and cleaning up tables.

Companies with hundreds of employees to those with just a handful vied for the opportunity to volunteer, and all were more than generous with contributions, said Alan Seidman, executive director of the Construction Contractors’ Association and this year’s event chairman.

“There are about 150 volunteers here and we had 40 on a waiting list,” Seidman said. “They come from all over the mid-Hudson to show their appreciation for our military and what their families go through – fears and separations the majority of us do not have to give a second thought to. We want to show them we have not forgotten and will not forget.”

“I’m so glad to be here,” said Rose Schaetzl, who handed out candy, puzzles, crayons and other goodies to the children who visited her table. “So many families go through multiple deployments and have to deal with that stress as well as dealing with everyday stress; and the economy is a stress all by itself. It’s a great feeling to see the kids enjoying themselves and parents smiling and relaxed – even if it’s only a temporary respite for them.”

More than 200 companies and individuals donated food, money and giveaways to make the day a success for members of the Air National Guard, Marines, reservists and others who are based at Stewart.

Lt. Col. Brian Argus, U.S. Marine reservist, enjoyed the food, the music and camaraderie. “Yes, it’s a nice break for us to see so many civilians make this day happen for us – and for the kids especially … nice to see them enjoying themselves and seeing our folks relaxing. A nice ‘timeout’ from regular duty – even if a brief one.”

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