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Privates Jesus Resendez and Crystal McMillian from Bravo Company, 16th Ordnance Battalion, watch as a student tosses bean bags at a tic-tac-toe board during the Oct. 25 Matoaca Elementary School Fall Festival . Forty-five members of the Fort Lee battalion volunteered for the event and helped with the setup and operation of 17 game stations throughout the school. (Contributed Photo)

FORT LEE, Va. (Nov. 7, 2013) -- Forty-five Soldiers from Bravo Company, 16th Ordnance Battalion, earned high praise from Matoaca Elementary School administrators and its Parent, Teacher Association after an evening of volunteer work at the facility’s annual fall festival on Oct. 25.

The ongoing partnership between Chesterfield County schools like Matoaca and the ordnance battalion at Fort Lee has been nurtured over the past year by frequent volunteer projects and special events in which Soldiers and students interact.

For the festival, the Bravo Bulldogs – led by 1st Lt. Emily White, company executive officer, and Sgt. 1st Class Moses Torres, platoon sergeant – helped with the setup and operation of 17 game stations throughout the school. The sounds of laughter and cheering as students competed for candy and prizes clearly showed the impact of their work.

Pvt. Jonai Henderson, a 91-Charlie (utilities equipment repair) advanced individual training student, said she “enjoyed every moment” of the evening and found it to be rewarding from personal and professional standpoints.

“This is a great way to interact with children in the community and show the partnership that the Army shares with its neighbors,” she said. “It also is fun just being back in a (grade) school environment. I was able to play some of the games with the students, and it just made us feel like kids again.”

As the event drew to a close at around 8:45 p.m., PTA President Sheila Camacho and other parents and teachers thanked each of the Soldiers. Their smiles and expressions of gratitude were accompanied by a smorgasbord of deserts that the volunteers brought back to share with their fellow Soldiers in the barracks.

“When I asked one group how they felt about the volunteer event, the response was overwhelmingly positive,” Torres wrote in a note to the Traveller. “They indicated that they all want to continue volunteering and stay involved in their community when they return home or move on to their next assignment.

“That’s great to hear,” he continued. “It means we not only contributed to the strong bond between Fort Lee and the surrounding community, but also showed some young Soldiers how valuable their assistance can be and the impact it can have on youngsters and families.”