DES MOINES, Iowa -- Taking a break from the battle to protect our nation's freedom, about two dozen Iowa Army Reserve soldiers marched to battle homelessness in Des Moines.
"We try to keep busy with community events and so this was a perfect opportunity for us to get us out there and do some army training, too," said Staff Sgt. Ashley Edwards.
Soldiers from the 361st Medical Logistics Company and the Second Battalion of the 377th Regiment Fox Company filled their rucksacks with items that are vital to combat homelessness during the winter months and marched. Edwards said, "We filled our rucksacks with about 30 pounds apiece of winter clothing, perishable items, personal hygiene items and canned goods today."
The 12K ruck march took soldiers from the north end of Gray's Lake, down to 1st Street, then Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway and to Central Iowa Shelter and Services on Mulberry Street. "It is so important and critical," said Margaret Petosa, the veterans case manager for Central Iowa Shelter and Services.
Once they arrived, the soldiers unpacked the rucksacks for a final weigh-in that reached 510 pounds worth of donations. Petosa said, "We are so grateful. The socks, the hats, the gloves, the personal care items, we need that stuff all the time."
1717 Brewing in Des Moines' East Village stepped up as a donation site to help add to the cause. "People think this is a lot, which it is, but we will go through this in a day," said Melissa Gradischnig, Central Iowa Shelter and Services volunteer and donations coordinator.
With homelessness being a growing issue in Iowa, reinforcements will be needed this winter. "We have 150 emergency beds, but we are over capacity already. With the weather getting colder, it will continue to grow. Last February, at one point we were housing 234 individuals in the emergency shelter," said Gradischnig.
While the donations are for anyone in need, the 12K ruck march was also close to these soldiers' hearts. Central Iowa Shelter and Services has 19 studio apartments available for veterans for up to two years at a time. They provide help with job placement, training and housing. Gradischnig said, "We are one of the few places that can get the veterans in here, get them housed, get them the services they need and work with them."
If you would like to learn more about how these soldiers can help with your community event, visit their Facebook page at Iowa Drill Sergeants.