VFW provides holiday parties for National Guard, families

MARYSVILLE — During the same weekend that Arlington celebrated its “Hometown Holidays” and Marysville became “Merrysville for the Holidays,” the members of Arlington Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1561 made sure that the soldiers of the Washington Army National Guard 81st Brigade who are serving locally would have a happy holiday season as well.

The Marysville Armed Forces Reserve Center hosted the VFW’s Christmas parties for the 81st Brigade Headquarters Company on Friday, Dec. 2, and Bravo Company on Sunday, Dec. 4.

“We saw about 110 soldiers on Friday night, and another 70 on Sunday afternoon,” said Post 1561 Cmdr. Willy Hughes, before presenting a certificate to Headquarters Company Commander Capt. Michael Balam on Dec. 2 for the Arlington VFW to “adopt” the company’s troops.

Hughes thanked Balam for his company’s donation of $150 toward the event from its Morale, Welfare and Recreation fund, which aided the VFW in decorating and supplying the mess hall and “Santa’s workshop” areas of the Armed Forces Reserve Center, as well as in providing Santa photos for soldiers’ families and a crafting table for their children.

“It brings the families closer to the military,” said Balam, whose troops come to Marysville one weekend out of every month. “I’ve heard wives say that when they see just a bit of what their husbands go through as soldiers, they can understand why they sometimes come home feeling a bit stressed.”

Balam’s troops have already deployed to Iraq twice, but until they receive further orders, they’re standing by for word from the governor. In the meantime, while unaccompanied soldiers such as specialists Lucas Halcomb and Marcio Neuy shared laughter and conversation over their meals, parents such as Lake Stevens residents Staff Sgt. Beau Froelich and his wife Sarah watched raptly as their children climbed into Santa’s lap and received stuffed stockings full of presents from Mr. and Mrs. Claus.

“It’s rare that we can have get-togethers like this,” Beau Froelich said, after son Bayden and daughters Caylee and Audrey began gushing over their gifts. “Seeing Santa was definitely their favorite part of tonight,” he laughed. “It’s good for morale. Anything that supports our troops and veterans is a positive.”


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