Soldiers lend hand in filling those holiday menus

By Brooks Taylor, Mt. Pleasant News


Some area resident will have an extra piece of pumpkin pie or another helping of corn this holiday season, thanks to the efforts of area churches, students and staff at Mt. Pleasant Community and New London High Schools and the Iowa National Guard.

Soldiers, mostly high-school students, training at the Mt. Pleasant and Iowa City National Guard armories, participated in an eight-mile ?ruck march? Saturday which ended with a gigantic food drop at the Fellowship Cup in Mt. Pleasant. Some 60 soldiers participated in the march, according to MSgt. Jesse Howard of New London, who organized the event.

A ruck march is a type of physical activity that consists of soldiers wearing a ?ruck sack?, or back pack as commonly known, and walking for a known distance.

?This is a skill that is taught to soldiers in order to achieve the goal of getting their gear from one place to another when a vehicle is not present to carry it,? Howard explained, adding that there are several ruck marches annually.

He said the event came together rather quickly, ?Honestly, this came together so much bigger than initially expected,? Howard reflected. ?The response from the communities has been incredible. The United and Presbyterian churches have gone way above and beyond expectations to support this cause. This has been an opportunity for students to learn about the importance of giving back to others and helping families in Henry County. What started out as a dream became a reality.?

Soliders bought in hook, line and sinker. Sean Zimmer, a senior at Washington High School, said he was glad to be given the chance to help. ?This was for a really good cause.?

Although temperatures were in the upper 70s, the soldiers said the weather was not a factor. ?We had quite a few ruck marches in basic training,? remembered Christian Schwenker, a senior at Burlington Notre Dame. ?We usually are weighted down with 60 pounds and today the load was lighter. I didn?t think the march or the temperature was difficult?Anytime you can help people out it is worth it. I am an Eagle scout and used to helping people out. It gives me a good feeling to make a difference.?

Izzy Steele, a senior at Lisbon High School agreed. ?I thought the march went well. When we started doing cadence, it made it better. I think what we were doing was awesome. To help somebody else out makes me feel good.?

Jacob Castenada, of Burlington, said he felt like it was a cool day. He said the mission lifted his spirits. ?It feels great that we can help people that otherwise might not have a good holiday. I see it kind of synonymous with our purpose and that is service, whether it be to our country or others.?

The event was meant to serve two purposes, Howard said ? to raise awareness and provide canned food items to the Fellowship Cup. He said the canned food drive was intended to provide a food supply for the Fellowship Cup for the Thanksgiving holiday, ?The canned goods will benefit families across all of Henry County who request assistance for the holiday season.?

Participating churches included the United Methodist and Presbyterian in New London and FCOC in Mt. Pleasant.

Howard said the Fellowship Cup was chosen as the recipient because they house the food pantry for Henry County. He commented that the idea for the undertaking came to him while sitting in church about a year ago. ?I felt the calling to help arrange a way to raise awareness within New London and Mt. Pleasant to build a supply of canned food for the Fellowship Cup.

?Upon talking to Fellowship Cup Director Ken Brown he requested that we do it before Thanksgiving because that is typically a holiday that donations are not as large (as they are for other holidays),? Howard added.

He emphasized that the Guard?s role was as a messenger. ?We just implemented our physical routine into helping out the community. The churches and the school districts played a far more important role to help raise awareness and fill the food pantry at the Fellowship Cup.?

Howard also thanked county, Mt. Pleasant and New London law enforcement as well as EMTs for their assistance in the march.