Special Olympics at Fort Stewart

While thousands of Third ID soldiers are engaged in Operation Iraqi Freedom, their loved ones are filling their shoes in some respects, taking on on some very important work. The 18th Annual Spring Special Olympics kicked off at Fort Stewart this morning. This is an event that relies heavily on volunteers. Even with so many soldiers gone, their families and reservists were ready and willing to pitch in.

Cassandra Perkins did something her father couldn't.

"I know that he would want to be here today, cheering on the kids," she said.

While her father, Col. David Perkins, is fighting the war in Iraq, Cassandra is taking his place at the Special Olympics, an event he loves.

"They're over there in Iraq right now, doing their job, so you feel that it's your part over here," Cassandra said. "You can do your part to cheer on people and give them your support in what they are doing."

Organizer Sgt. Norma Kline told us, "I think we have the best families in the Army, we really do."

They're making a difference in the lives of these kids. Many of them, like participant Justin Ashley, also have mothers and fathers overseas.

"I hope for my dad to return safely, unharmed," he said.

It's not just soldiers' families who are helping out. National Guardsmen who were called to Fort Stewart were happy to do their part, as well. One of them, Felix Marquez, said, "This is the best assignment ever." Marquez is with the National Guard out of Orlando, Florida. They're filling in for the Third ID soldiers.

"They chose us to fill their shoes and we're trying to do the best we can," Marquez said. "We're just glad we're here and able to."

"You just see the smiles on their faces and that makes you feel really good about it," added Cassandra Perkins.

About 200 kids took part in the Special Olympics. They paid tribute to the Third ID soldiers by dedicating today's games to them.

Reported by: Liz Flynn, lflynn@wtoc.com