JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. –
Joint Base Langley-Eustis commemorated this year’s Memorial Day with a series of events called ‘Remember the Fallen’, May 16-26.
‘Remember the Fallen’ included a Commander’s Cup competition, the ‘Warrior Battle Challenge’, and wrapped with a retreat ceremony, festival, and concert with performances from Gary Sinise & the Lt. Dan Band, the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command Band, and U.S. Air Force Full Spectrum.
“[It took] approximately five months of collaborative planning with installation services and tenant organizations from across JBLE-Eustis,” said Donna Fontes, Force Support Squadron director. “We know that these types of events mean so much to the community and go a long way in creating bonds and developing strong, resilient soldiers, airmen, and families.”
One of the major events in ‘RtF’ was the Mammoth Global Partners ‘Military Battle Challenge’, which JBLE-Eustis hosted in the Eustis Commissary parking lot, May 20-22, 2022.
“What appealed to me initially…was how suited MBC was to potentially test all physical components of fitness tested by the [Army Combat Fitness Test],” said Fontes. “[It’s] geared to motivate and support servicemen and women's fitness, holistic health, and wellness. MBC is a fun and innovative combination of combat skills with fitness challenges.”
The challenge itself is a timed, head-to-head obstacle course designed to simulate realistic battlefield skills needed for success in physically challenging combat situations. Other obstacles included a two-story cargo net/tower climb, laser marksmanship tasks, and a 180-lb “Battle Buddy” drag across the finish line to stop the clock.
‘RtF’ wrapped-up with a ‘Remembrance Festival’ and concerts, which took place at the Felker Army Airfield, May 26. The festival itself featured food trucks, static displays, and axe throwing. The TRADOC Band and Full Spectrum kicked off the concert, opening for Gary Sinise & the Lt. Dan Band., who took the stage before more than 3,500 people in attendance.
“It's all about remembrance in an event like this,” said Gary Sinise, philanthropist, musician, and actor. “Remembering the fallen and being able to be a part of it and to be able to celebrate those sacrifices and remind us. It's just another way that I can participate in giving back to our defenders. I don't take what [they] all do for granted. It's something very special to me.”
Sinise is known for his role in the 1994 film Forrest Gump in which he played ‘Lt. Dan’, a combat-wounded Vietnam War veteran. He began working with Wounded Warriors following his appearance in this film. Sinise also has numerous family members who have served in the U.S. armed services, including his father and grandfather. This legacy and his experiences led to his establishing the ‘Gary Sinise Foundation’, which regularly performs acts of philanthropy throughout the country and beyond for the U.S. military and its service members.
“The meaning of Memorial Day became…important to me [in trying] to play a role in just bridging the gap…between the vast majority of our citizens who may not have a personal connection to somebody in our military,” Sinise said. “These are our defenders, and we can never do enough for [them] as far as I'm concerned.”
Fontes echoed Sinise’s sentiment when it came to togetherness in honoring the fallen.
“Like many communities around the world, our military community has been through so much over the last few years, so being able to bring a well-known artist in is what they deserve…while also appreciating the special service bond they all have with each other,” she said. “The ‘Gary Sinise Foundation’ gives so much to first responders and defenders across the nation; for us to have the opportunity to show Gary Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band how much we appreciate all they do with…abundant attendance was very fulfilling.”
Sinise met this warmth in kind.
“I don't take what [service members] do for granted; I know where my freedom comes from,” said Sinise. “I want you to know always I send my thanks, my appreciation to you and your loved ones, [and] our Gold Star families. We will never forget you.”