By Robert Stoneback
The Danville News
MAUSDALE — Soldiers and their families were humbled by the outpouring of community support for their holiday dinner on Sunday.
“I’ve been in the service 22 years, and I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Maj. Tim Ruby.
“About half these soldiers just got back from deployment. ... To see them welcomed back by their community is really awesome,” said Lt. Col. Tom Starkoski.
About 400 people, including soldiers and their families, gathered at the Danville Armed Forces Reserve Center at 11:30 a.m. Numerous community members and local businesses helped donate food and money to help pay for the dinners of military family members. The government paid for the meals of the service members. Food was provided by Good Wil’s Catering.
Military personnel were attached to the 3rd Battalion 103rd Armor Regiment of the Pennsylvania National Guard.
The meal is meant to welcome the troops back and give their families a chance to participate, said Staff Sgt. Bryan Parsons. “It brings everyone together,” he said.
Some of the soldiers were returning from deployments in Afghanistan, Kuwait and Germany. Among them was Sgt. Stefan Eisenhower, who spent the last nine months guarding bases and military personnel in the Kuwaiti desert. “It’s nice to see the four seasons and family and friends again,” he said. Eisenhower, who is originally from Northumberland, appreciated the chance to have the reserve members back home for the meal. “It’s great to see them all together,” he said.
Other reserve members were similarly enthusiastic. “It’s very nice they put this together,” said Spc. Matthew Moser, who had just returned from training in Arizona and Oklahoma.
“It’s a great event. There’s a lot of support from the community, which is greatly appreciated,” said Staff Sgt. Derek Montalvo, attending with his wife, Erica, and six month-old son, Christian. Christian had just won an Elmo doll at the meal’s raffle, which provided prizes to adults and children alike.
Other service members, who either could not be back for the holidays or were missing or killed in action, were also recognized with a vacant set table for one near the entrance.
Dale Erb, mayor of Riverside, helped raise funds from local donors to support the meal. Danville’s American Legion Post contributed $1,500, Bloomsburg’s gave $1,000 and Milton’s post donated $500. Northumberland’s Post 44 also donated, though Erb was uncertain of the amount.
The Milton post had their monthly meeting just last week where they voted to contribute. The post commander then drove down to Riverside’s borough office the next day to hand deliver the check, just to make sure it would be received in time for the Sunday event. “That’s just the sort of response we’ve gotten,” Erb said. “Everyone that donated wanted to help more.”
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