Antique hot-rods, inflatable bounce houses, motorcycles, jousting arenas and a live band entertained the crowd at Happy Valley Park, as the 364th Civil Affairs Brigade hosted its annual Army Family Day Celebration for 434 soldiers, their family members and 75 volunteer supporters on Sunday, Sept. 15.

by: PHOTO BY: MRS. LISA MARELLA - Tony's Bistro and Catering provided an abundance of food for the soldiers, families and guests of the 364th Civil Affairs Brigade during its Army Family Day Celebration last Sunday, Sept. 15, at Happy Valley Park.This event honored the dedication and sacrifices made by three units’ soldiers and their families in support of our country.

“This day is all about our soldiers and their families,” said Mrs. Lisa Marella, Family Readiness Group leader for the 364th Civil Affairs Brigade.

by: PHOTO BY: MRS. LISA MARELLA - Children line up for face painting as a clown adds finishing touches to Arina Rundgren during the 364th Civil Affairs Brigades Army Family Day Celebration at Happy Valley Park on Sept. 15.Planning for this celebration began five months ago. All of the food, drinks, entertainment and other activities were provided by organizations from the surrounding communities that volunteered their support. Since the U.S. Army Reserve prohibits Family Readiness Groups from soliciting from the community, funding to pay for non-donated items came from individual soldiers’ donations during monthly battle assemblies throughout the past year.

“I am so grateful for all of the continued support from the city of Happy Valley, and from all the businesses and service organizations that made this day successful. I could not have asked for a better day!” Marella said.

This celebration is not just a picnic; it is an opportunity to promote camaraderie among these units, and to educate families on the services and organizations who support them, and are available to them. Some of these organizations included the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion, the Portland Veterans Center, Operation Military Kids, the Association of the U.S. Army, the American Red Cross, the Patriot Guard Riders, USAA, and the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve. All three units are stationed at the Armed Forces Reserve Center on Camp Withycombe, located in Happy Valley, and are part of the Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (Airborne), headquartered at Fort Bragg, N.C.

Delta Company officially moved to Camp Withycombe last November from Fort Lewis, Wash., and is part of the 364th Civil Affairs Brigade’s 448th Civil Affairs Battalion. The 320th Tactical Psychological Operations Company welcomed back 40 soldiers from the local community who recently returned from a nine-month deployment in Afghanistan.

Honored well-wishers at the Family Day Celebration included Happy Valley Mayor Lori DeRemer, who has built a strong partnership with the 364th Civil Affairs Brigade since it relocated to Camp Withycombe two years ago. State Rep. Shemia Fagan (D-Portland/Clackamas), vice-chair of the House Veterans’ Services Committee, addressed the soldiers and family members, thanking them for their dedication to our country. State Rep. Jeff Reardon (D-Happy Valley), a Vietnam veteran, also addressed the soldiers, and encouraged them to use all of the resources available to them.

U.S. senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley sent their representatives to participate in the opening ceremony. These representatives, who are former members of the 364th and the 320th, read a letter that is written and signed by both Wyden and Merkley, and specifically addressed to the soldiers and families of the 364th, 448th and the 320th.

Comments in the letter include, “Since our country’s inception, the men and women with special skills and knowledge have been the force multipliers that are often the deciding factors when strengthening our nation overseas and, as importantly, form the backbone of our communities here at home… Your commitment to preserving and protecting freedom is an important chapter in the history of our nation. While you are deployed supporting us, remember that Oregon and America support you… We also want to extend our appreciation to your loved ones and families, who have endured in your many absences, and who stand today with you… On behalf of all Oregonians, we wish you success on your missions, a secured victory and peace and prosperity here at home.”

Clowns, face painters, a fire engine from Clackamas Fire and a friendly, “Officers vs. Enlisted Softball Game” topped-off Sunday’s celebration. This carnival atmosphere is in stark contrast to Saturday’s event for all three units, which was conducting a “Soldier Readiness Process” to ensure these men and women are prepared to deploy whenever called upon.

Marella’s position as the Family Readiness Group leader is voluntary, and she spent more than 1,000 volunteer hours preparing and coordinating the Family Day Celebration.

“I have a passion for these soldiers. I know, from personal experience, what these families have to deal with when their soldiers get deployed. I wanted to make this day the best possible Family Day for everyone,” she said.

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