Project launched to revamp rec room at Fort Mill Armory

May 2010

A torn sofa once sat in the recreation room at the Fort Mill National Guard Armory.
It's gone now.  Ditto for a pool table with a broken leg and torn and stained chairs
torn and stained chairs.  So too, is a rock that hung from the ceiling.
The room with its battered and dirty furniture is where the now deployed soldiers who make up the 122nd Sapper Company said goodbye to their spouses and kids. While the soldiers are away, a group on volunteers are on a mission of their own.
Workers are swinging hammers. They're cutting sheetrock, updating wiring and hanging lights to create a proper recreation room fit for the families waiting for their soldiers to come home.
That rehab started because a solider/recruiter manning a base had a dream.
"Originally, I just hoped to clean it up," Sgt. First Class Ralph Castle said last week.
Like Castle, Jane Ann Maxwell last December had a vision for something better for the soldiers whose unselfishness allowed them to walk away from their families for the unknown.
"These guys give us their very best when they serve us at home and now in their third tour of a war zone," Maxwell, a Fort Mill interior designer, said. "How can we do anything else than give them our best back? Truly, that's what it's all about. These guys deserve to have a space that is every
bit the quality that they give us."
Now, five months later, a revamped recreation room is on the way. And soldiers and their families are getting their comfort room.
"I'm tickled to death," Castle said. "The room is finally taking shape. They went from taking a soldier's dream of cleaning it up to (creating) almost a sports bar like feel."
But shush: The rehab is part of "Operation Hush."
"It's a surprise for the guys who are set to come home in October," Castle said of the soldiers, who are now deployed in an overseas combat zone. "They don't know what's going on."
Local businesses have stepped up to help bring Castle and Maxwell's vision to fruition. The idea is to incorporate several seating arrangements complimented by a media center for children and adults as well as pictures and games. Added to the look will be a pool table, some plants, fresh paint and flooring.
The idea? Create a warm touch that evokes a sense of home, a place a soldier's family members can gather when they need to.
"When it gets done, it will be nicer than anything I've ever had," Castle said. "I'm hoping it will go from the worst I've ever seen to the best."
"Operation Hush" has a fast approaching deadline.
"I'm hoping to get it done some time in June so the families can enjoy it before the soldiers get home," Castle said.
From the recreation room, soldiers' spouses can plan birthday parties for their children. Maybe, they can put together a surprise baby shower or just cry on each other's shoulders when the need is there.
But most of all, the room will help boost military and family morale.
"That's a pretty good gift to say 'we appreciate you,'" Castle said.
The dreamers need your help to finish the dream.
"Construction is one thing, and we appreciate those folks who have stepped up," Maxwell said. "But, we have a long way to go.
"It's one thing to get the room ready," she added. "It's another to furnish it. Furniture is expensive in this day and time, and we don't want to put broken and used furniture like they had before back in the room. This time we'd like to give them furniture that will last the long haul."
Want to help?