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Face of Defense: Guard Members Aid Special Olympics Event

From a 109th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment News Release

GRANTHAM, Pa., April 27, 2012 – More than a dozen Pennsylvania Army National Guard members from 1st Battalion, 108th Field Artillery, based in Carlisle, Pa., volunteered to help athletes at the 2012 Special Olympics Area M Games at Messiah College here.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Pennsylvania Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Shawn Rouvre, a human resources sergeant from New Cumberland, Pa., congratulates 15-year-old Jocelyn Nava from Steelton, Pa., as she finishes first in a 400-meter run during the Special Olympics Area M Games at Messiah College in Grantham, Pa., April 19, 2012. Army photo by Sgt. Amber Fluck

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

The April 19th event saw record-breaking attendance with more than 1,100 athletes, onlookers and volunteers for a day of fun and friendly competition. Soldiers came from as far away as Philadelphia to serve as line judges, time recorders, track security and presenters.

“To be given a ribbon or cheered on by their military heroes, it can't get any better than that,” said Kay Straw, director of the Special Olympics Area M.

This year’s presenters were Army Sgt. 1st Class Francis Manley and Army Staff Sgt. Timothy Corcoran, both from Philadelphia, and members of Battery C, 1st Battalion, 108th Field Artillery.

Manley estimates he and Corcoran awarded ribbons to nearly 100 athletes who competed in events such as the 50, 100 and 200-meter dashes, as well as the 100-meter walk and the 400-meter run. Other presenters awarded ribbons for the softball throw, wheelchair races and the standing and running long jumps.

For Manley, talking with the athletes while awarding their ribbons made the biggest impact.

“When that soldier pins that ribbon on the chest of our athlete, you can see their chest go out; when he shakes their hands or gives them a pat on the back and says, ‘good job,’ you can see the pride come across the face of that athlete,” Straw of the Special Olympics said.

Army Staff Sgt. James Shirley, with 1st Battalion, 108th Field Artillery, knows that feeling of admiration well. Shirley, a native of Carlisle, Pa., has volunteered with the Special Olympics for three years, including serving as a buddy to a fellow soldier’s autistic son.

Seeing the joy on the athletes’ faces -- no matter how well they did – is what brings him back year-after-year.

Other soldiers echoed those sentiments. Despite a world full of competition, Special Olympics athletes seem genuinely happy to be competing with very little interest in whether they win awards, ribbons or trophies. One soldier said the athlete coming in last often receives the biggest applause.

It was Army Staff Sgt. Shawn Rouvre and Army Sgt. Andrew Bankert who greeted athletes crossing the finish line.

“I was a motivator,” said Rouvre, a human resources noncommissioned officer who gave high-fives to the athletes. “When you see how excited they are [after finishing the race], it is an amazing experience.”

Rouvre, from New Cumberland, Pa., is a third year volunteer who especially likes seeing the same athletes each year.

“I like seeing the kids growing up,” he said. “They often remember us from prior years.”


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