By Heather Kline
1st Battalion, 48th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Chemical Brigade and the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence helped several individuals live out a dream when they made them honorary Soldiers for a day April 11 at Fort Leonard Wood.
Bob Pellegrin, Choices for People chief executive officer, said, “Part of our mission is aiding individuals with disabilities in developing essential life skills.”
He said even though their disabilities prohibit them from enlisting in the Armed Forces, these military activities gave them a taste of fulfilling a call to serve.
“Thank you to the professionals of the 1-48th for offering their time to make this a reality,” Pellegrin said.
They spent their day negotiating elements of the obstacle course, undergoing instructional training such as simulated rifle marksmanship, performing drill and ceremony movements and eating military chow in the form of Meals Ready to Eat.
“I was happy I could feel like a real Soldier,” said Soldier for a day Lois Cunningham. “I enjoyed crawling through the tunnel. I did it, and I liked wearing this uniform.”
LaShandra Andrews, Choices for People Department of Mental Health Supported Employment specialist, said she was thrilled to be involved with this event from start to finish.
“I knew this would be a life changing and meaningful opportunity for these special people,” Andrews said. “As soon as they heard they were going to Fort Leonard Wood, they were intrigued and full of excitement.”
Sgt. Aysia Glaspie, drill sergeant, has a sibling with special needs and said she was excited to help out.
“I have a real appreciation for what it means to make these events happen. I love seeing the joy on their faces,” Glaspie said. “It’s a nice break from our normal day-to-day routine.”
Staff Sgt. Nicholas Shirey, drill sergeant and father of a child diagnosed with autism, immediately volunteered to help.
“I have a personal connection with those who have disabilities, and I really wanted to be out here today,” Shirey said.
Sgt. 1st Class Paul Mandrell, drill sergeant, said he did his best to ensure the day was a complete success.
“It was extremely rewarding, not only for them, but for me as well,” Mandrell said. “Clearly, it was a win-win situation, and I hope we can do this again.”
“There were two sets of heroes out here today, the participants and the drill sergeants who trained them,” said Capt. Tyler Barnum, Company C, 1-48th commander. “Today I witnessed strong-willed individuals make their way through training events that challenge even the very best (Soldiers).”
The day ended with a graduation ceremony.
“Memories made here today will last a lifetime for these honorary Soldiers for a day,” said Pellegrin.