Standing at attention in their Army fatigues and with drill sergeants standing over them, more than 140 soldiers belted out “Jingle Bells” in unison.
They followed their rendition of the Christmas tune by reciting the Soldier’s Creed, most with red Santa hats atop their heads.
“I am an American soldier ... I am a warrior and a member of a team ... ”
Volunteers with the Blue Star Mothers of America Edmond/North Oklahoma City chapter coordinated a day full of fun and food Friday for Fort Sill soldiers who couldn’t go home for the holidays.
Their morning started with breakfast at the Renaissance Hotel downtown, followed by a stroll through the Myriad Gardens and a trip to the 45th Infantry Division Museum.
Then, the troops headed to Gattitown off Northwest Expressway, where they were fed, played games and surprised children with the tickets from their game winnings.
They played laser tag at Heyday Family Fun Center in Norman before ending the day at the Four Points Sheraton in Oklahoma City, where Earl’s Rib Palace catered dinner and the troops were given Christmas goody bags.
Below is a look at a few of the soldiers who were treated to the holiday Soldiers Day Out.
Pfc. Cameri Coleman
Pfc. Cameri Coleman, 20, of Fredericksburg, Va., said being a woman in the military makes her proud.
“There is no difference between us and our male counterparts,” she said. “We can be just as strong as them.”
However, being a strong personality who likes to talk has been difficult.
“The discipline and the military customs have been a hard adjustment,” she said.
She plans to use her job as a pharmacy technician in the Army to go to college before becoming an officer in the Army.
Pvt. Shavanna Cambe
Pvt. Shavanna Cambe, 19, of Oxnard, Calif., was encouraged by her family to join the Army. Her aunt and uncle both served in the Navy.
“My family is Filipino and very strict,” she said. “But they’ve been telling me all along that I can do it.”
Her closeness to her family has made the transition during basic training difficult, especially being away from them during the holidays.
“I feel very far away from home when I have time to think about it,” she said. Spending the day with the Blue Star Mothers was special for her.
“They don’t shake your hands, they give you a hug and really make you feel like you’re at home,” she said.
Cambe said she plans to pursue a career in the medical field.
Pfc. Kachieve Rose, left, and Pvt. Adrian Thenstead
Pvt. Adrian Thenstead, 19, and Pfc. Kachieve Rose, 24, met one another in basic training at Fort Sill less than three weeks ago.
Remarkably, the two Jamaica-born men came to the U.S. around the same time before joining the Army. They recognized one another as fellow Jamaicans after hearing each other’s accents.
“We come from both ends of Jamaica,” Thenstead said. “He’s from the west, and I’m from the east.”
Rose decided to join the Army while attending college to be a nurse. A few years into his study, he realized how expensive a degree would be.
“A friend told me about the Army and the G.I. Bill,” he said. “I’ve come to know a lot about America studying for the citizenship test.”
Thenstead joined the Army following high school.
“My mom is so proud,” Thenstead said. “She’s always told me she wanted me to join the Army.”
Both will be eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship following basic training.