Dec. 24, 2019
MEDIA: Please consider running Mayor Ken McClure’s video thank you to the community, following yesterday’s Home for the Holidays event. Here is a link to a downloadable, broadcast-ready file: https://www.dropbox.com/s/qyjiazc5clb4xix/Mayor%20thank%20you.mov?dl=0
Social media version: https://vimeo.com/380805637/263117c366
More than 300 service members from the Army, Marines and Air Force, based at U.S. Army Fort Leonard Wood, spent Dec. 23, 2019 in Springfield, Missouri, as the community rallied behind their visit, largely coordinated by the City of Springfield. About a dozen local businesses donated their time and money to make the visit a reality.
Mayor Ken McClure issued a video thank you message to the community following the event.
“I would like to thank our community for proudly stepping up to support the service members from U.S. Army Fort Leonard Wood. It was our pleasure to host men and women from the Army, Marines and Air Force to Springfield as a home for the holidays. We greatly appreciate the support from partners and sponsors,” he said.
Service members from Fort Leonard Wood who could not get home during the annual holiday block leave, have visited Bass Pro and Hemingway’s in the past, but officials say nothing has ever been done to this breadth or scale at Bass Pro or throughout the city. The group of mainly trainees, average age of which is 19, enjoyed a full day of activities, including a welcome rally at Bass Pro, followed by lunch catered by White River Conference Center, excursions to some of Springfield’s entertainment attractions and then dinner and a holiday concert at the city-owned Jordan Valley Ice Park. They represented U.S. Army, Marines and Air Force.
Mayor McClure was moved during a previous visit by City Council and other leaders to the 78-year-old Army Base earlier this year. The base offers specialized training to all branches of the U.S. Military. “Do we think we can open up Springfield to invite these service members to our town for an entire day?” Mayor McClure asked City staff. “Almost no one turned us down,” said City of Springfield Director of Public Information & Civic Engagement. Scott’s department coordinated and staged the series of events along with area partners.
Bass Pro was the first to confirm support in a big way: opening up their facilities for a welcome rally attended by Founder and CEO Johnny Morris and Commanding General Donna Martin, providing no-cost tours of Wonders of Wildlife National Museum & Aquarium and a lunch with fried fish and vegetable fix-ins, at White River Conference. Morris and his team covered the costs in full for more than 300 service members.
Morris said the "Home for the Holidays" event was one of the "proudest, happiest days ever in the history since we’ve had our shop open here. And I look up at the sign, ‘Home for the Holidays’ and it gets me."
He said 75 years ago his father couldn’t be home with his family because he was in eastern Belgium fighting the Battle of the Bulge during World War II, and it made him stop and think about the importance of military service.
“It’s a time for us all to stop and think, be grateful for our many blessings that we have here in America and especially this morning, I’m thankful to my dad, but all of us are all grateful to all of you…and the service you all are doing, all of you and your comrades all around the world. We wouldn’t even be here – stop and think about it – somebody wants to have a bait shop, America is the land of opportunity. You defend the land of opportunity. You defend the greatest nation on earth and we are all so grateful to you. Our home is always your home here, and we’re happy you’re here today and we’re grateful for all you do.”
Mayor McClure, Mayor Pro Tem Phyllis Ferguson, Councilwoman Jan Fisk and Councilmen Matt Simpson and Richard Ollis were among the elected officials present at activities throughout the day. Representative from the Missouri House district 136 Craig Fishel and representatives from U.S. Senators Roy Blunt and Josh Hawley were also on hand. Senator Blunt participated in a welcome video shown during lunch.
“This has to be my favorite project I have ever been a part of,” said Councilwoman Fisk. Fisk and her daughter volunteered and served at the dinner. “I hope they will have fond memories of Springfield for a lifetime!”
Mayor Pro Tem Phyllis Ferguson posted her thoughts to the Zone 1-Northwest Springfield Facebook page she authors. “Out of a simple conversation in July, we welcome these young heroes to our town today. They had a good time they’ll long remember and are grateful for our city’s warm welcome. I’m proud of our citizens and our city. #SpringfieldPride,” she said. Ferguson, an Army Veteran, also posted a photo of her and Mayor McClure, alongside a couple of drill sergeants at the evening’s concert.
Andy B’s Entertainment also opened their doors at no cost, to a variety of social games and attractions that stirred up some healthy competition: bowling, arcade games, virtual reality and underground laser tag.
The Historic Gillioz Theater opened for a screening of “Christmas Vacation” and their own rally as the service members there were greeted by a cheering crowd.
A third excursion at Urban Air Trampoline and Adventure Park in the Battlefield Mall had the soldiers, marines and air force members defying gravity. They tested their skills in the Warrior Obstacle Course, competed with one another and practiced their own tricks freestyle.
Late afternoon, the service members played video and other games and ice skated at Jordan Valley Park.
The evening ended with a catered meal of Springfield favorites, including Lucy’s cashew chicken, Mexican Villa , Arris’ Pizza, Harty T’s BBQ and Andy’s Frozen Custard. The service members also enjoyed a concert featuring three local bands: MSU’s Jazz Ensemble called The Other Guys; country band DaCoMo and rock band Fire for Effect from the 135th Army National Guard Band.
“For some of them, this could be their first holiday away from home and family,” said Major General Donna Martin, “And so, events like these, where the community opens its arms really mean a lot to them.”
Councilman Matt Simpson attended both the Welcome Rally and the events at Jordan Valley Park. “Home for the Holidays dinner at Jordan Valley Ice Park with several hundred of our nation’s heroes who we’re all honored to welcome to the Springfield family,” Simpson posted. Simpson’s colleagues from Ozarks Technical Community College joined him. OTC recently expanded educational offerings at the Truman Education Center on the military base and was a financial sponsor for the event.
Sponsors and supporters included:
Andy’s Frozen Custard
Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World
City of Springfield
Community Foundation of the Ozarks
Corwin Automotive of Springfield
Harry T’s BBQ
Ozarks Technical Community College
Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau
Springfield Hotel Lodging Association
Springfield-Greene County Park Board – Jordan Valley Ice Park
United Way of the Ozarks
Urban Air Trampoline and Adventure Park
Wonders of Wildlife National Museum & Aquarium
Donations to cover expenses are still being collected by United Way of the Ozarks at https://causemomentum.org/projects/homefortheholidays.
# # #
For more information, contact Cora Scott, Director of Public Information & Civic Engagement, at 417-380-3352 or [email protected].