By Marianne Lincoln
SPANAWAY, WA — It was a Tuesday afternoon and the parking lot at Sprinker Recreation Center had nary a space left to put another car. The fledgling Eastisde Subchapter of the local AUSA was welcoming soldiers, their wives and children to the center to celebrate. It was a “Welcome Home” party from their deployments and it was no small affair.
Outside the building were almost a dozen new cars and another dozen motorcycles and other sport vehicles. There was Kettle Corn popping and three generous ladies from Umpqua bank were handing out treats from a large ice cream truck. To the side, the cotton candy machine awaited its chance to restart. They found out it could not be indoors by the smoke alarm.
As guests arrived, they were welcomed at the door by a team of greeters thanking them for their service. Just inside, families could have a portrait taken for free. There were two bouncy houses in the racquetball courts and an open tennis court. The staff in the ice arena were handing out skates for those brave enough to take some time on the ice.
The Alder room contained crafts projects for the young at heart. A popcorn machine and snow cones were there as treats. In the corner, two clowns busily prepared balloon animals, flowers and other objects. Members of the local Rotary Club and 723 Networking were there to assist kids with the crafts.
The biggest celebration was upstairs where the lobby was alight with a contingent from the Seattle SeaGals. The Tacoma Rainiers mascot Rhubarb, roamed the halls and frequented the AUSA table. In the mezzanine, many played ping pong, foosball and relaxed with their pizza and sodas.
In the Rainier Room there was an enormous crowd. As music blared over the speakers from the DJ, soldiers and their families consumed hundreds of pizzas, salad, sodas and cookies. Tables of trinkets and free T-shirts lined the perimeter walls. Titus Will, Larson Dodge, America’s Credit Union, the Military Resource Directory, Harborstone, USAA and many others offered information and services to passersby. In the front of the room were two members of the Seattle Mist Football Team; if you met either of these gals in another setting, you wouldn’t have a clue they played football. They were lovely.
At 1 p.m., the Spanaway Lake High School Music Company stopped by to sing a beautiful rendition of the Star Spangled Banner as everyone stood at attention and covered their heart. AUSA Eastside President Greg Hollmann then introduced the sponsors of the days festivities.
The Eastside AUSA Chapter was only formed seven months ago. The enormity of this party was a truly amazing feat for an unincorporated area to put on. This is a testament to a community that is truly coming together with purpose. The organizers did a magnificent job.
The kids, puppies, mommies and service men all appeared to be having a great time. Each one that I asked agreed it was a really amazing party. To this, and I believe I am speaking for the entire AUSA Eastside sub chapter, I say, thank you for your service to all of us.
This is a link to the Pierce County TV video about the event. KIRO TV also covered it on a one minute segment.