Mitchell Lehman, 8, a student at South Jefferson shows off his pitching techniques to his ‘buddy', Pvt. Franklin Nelson, an infantryman assigned to Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI) May 18,
2012 at the Monti Physical Fitness Center Athletic Fields during
Special Olympics Day on Fort Drum. The event brought special needs
students and soldiers together for a local community outreach
program. Photo by Army Staff Sgt. Jennifer Bunn
FORT DRUM, N.Y. (5/18/2012) — Excitement flashed on the faces of
students while they disembarked their buses and walked under the
arch leading them to the Olympic Village. Music billowed through the
air and hotdogs cooked on the barbeque as the student's lips formed
broad smiles and eyes grew wide as they looked for their buddy
dressed in blue.
Over 150 students from several local
community schools participated in the Special Olympics Day here, May
18. The event is an outreach bonding program that brings special
needs students and 10th Mountain Division soldiers together for a
day of enriching activities.
The games began with an opening
ceremony, which included a powerful rendition of the National Anthem
performed by Nathan Carlton, a student who participated as an
athlete. The 10th MTN DIV commander, Maj. Gen. Mark Milley, gave the
opening remarks to the crowd and gave thanks to all those who
supported the event.
“Today is a special day for all of us
here at Fort Drum,” said Milley. “Thanks to every one for supporting
this special event.”
“To the soldiers who volunteered; there
are several hundred of them out here today,” he said. “They have
been specially trained to participate. They volunteered for the
Army, the 10th MTN DIV and to assist with our Special Olympics. So
for all of you out there in the blue shirts, thank you for
Milley continued with encouraging words to all
the student athletes who anxiously waited to start the festivities.
“Most importantly this event would not occur without our Olympic
athletes,” he stated. “And they are very much, each and every one of
them, an Olympian in the true meaning of the word. To be an
Olympian, it means you have to have courage, cross any river, climb
any hill no matter how high and you have to overcome any obstacle.
Every one of the athletes today is an Olympian every bit as much as
anyone who is competing in the (official) Olympics. They are
Olympians as much as any professional athlete. So our hats are off
to you. You have our tremendous respect and we are extraordinarily
proud of putting this event on. Good luck to each of you. Climb to
After the participants recited the ‘Athlete's Oath' with
the help of their buddy, everyone broke from the crowd and
headed for their sporting event.
All students were
pre-assigned an activity before they arrived. Some enjoyed
the sunny outdoors by dashing to the finish line and
throwing softballs in the grassy fields; some showed off
their basketball skills in the Monti Physical Fitness
Center; some made a splash in the Monti pool; while others
hit the lanes in the Pines Plains Bowling Center.
Mitchell Lehman, 9, a student at South Jefferson, showed off
his pitching arm with a smooth softball throw. His mother
Dawn Lehman and father Sgt. 1st Class Keith Lehman Jr.,
assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 85th Mountain Infantry
Warrior in Transition, proudly watched their son compete in
“Mitchell loves being involved in the
Special Olympics and he really gets enjoyment from meeting
new friends,” says Dawn. “He has participated in the
Exceptional Family Member Program Mountain Camp. These
events mean the world to me because the military has done a
lot for Mitchell and my husband. We love the military.”
Pvt. Franklin Nelson, an infantryman assigned to Alpha
Company, 2nd Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade
Combat Team, enjoyed being Mitchell's buddy. Volunteering
for community events is nothing new to him.
helping the community. Back home I did a lot of volunteer
programs,” Nelson said. “This is something I really enjoy.
It is very important for us (Fort Drum) to host this event.
It gives us soldiers a sense of community outside the post
Melanie Beasley, whose son Sean, 8, a
student at Calcium Primary, greatly appreciates the special
events the military hosts for her son. She is also thankful
for volunteers like Spc. Brian Bennett, an unmanned aerial
vehicle maintainer, from Bravo Company, 2nd Brigade Special
Troops Battalion, 2ndBCT who mentored Sean.
super important for events like these, because it brings a
lot of EFMP Families together so we get to know each other,”
expressed Melanie. “When he (Sean) found out he was getting
another buddy he was super excited. When he got out of the
bus he ran to find his buddy.”
Once the Olympians
received their medals, they milled around the Olympic
Village to eat lunch, play carnival games and demonstrate
their artistic abilities at the various arts and crafts
booths. Some even checked out the red fire trucks.
Although it has been several years since the last Special
Olympics Day event, Mr. Harold D. Greer, the Morale, Welfare
and Recreation Director for Fort Drum knows why they are
“The Special Olympics has always
been successful on Fort Drum simply because of our soldiers
and their passionate outreach, character and nature,” said
Greer. “So our children love coming out here and being
mentored by soldiers and cheered on.”
leads into our Summer Olympics for our kids under the EFMP
summer camp and many of the soldier volunteers who are out
here today are going to volunteer again,” he added.
By Army Staff Sgt. Jennifer Bunn
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