Soldier says MLK paved the way |

Soldier says MLK paved the way

Post Independent/April E. Clark Army Spc. Gwendolyn Shelton (left), and her mother, Frankie Thomas, plan a weekend of rest and relaxation during tier Operation Vacation stay in Glenwood Springs.

Operation Vacation is a program that brings military personnel who have fought overseas to the Roaring Fork Valley. Bob Johnson, a realtor for Vicki Lee Green Realtors in Glenwood Springs, coordinated with the Army to create the program that provides lodging, meals and amenities for veterans. He hopes to continue the program throughout the year with the support of local donors. More than 20 businesses have offered complimentary dinners, entertainment, outdoor activities, lodging and transportation for Operation Vacation participants since the program’s inception last August. Those interested in sponsoring the program may contact Bob Johnson at or 945-1010.Name: Spc. Gwendolyn Shelton

Age: 34 Branch of the military and division: Army, 183rd Maintenance, 43rd ASG (Area Support Group)Family: mom, Frankie Thomas; three daughters: Desireé (14), Olivia (12) and Maya (5)When and why did you join the Army? May 10, 2004; because I need a change in jobs. I have a degree in rehabilitation and I worked with the Easter Seals for 10 years with people with disabilities. I was getting close to the cutoff for joining the Army and it was something I always wanted to do. Better than sitting back and wondering if I coulda, woulda, shoulda.

Where have you been deployed? LSA Anaconda in Iraq (for 11 months and 15 days). I was deployed a month 1/2 after I got into the unit. When you were being deployed, what did you miss most about home? I missed my kids the most. I missed out on birthdays and Christmases, and just being around family and friends. I missed the simple things you take for granted. In Alabama we have magnolia trees, and you can just go outside and see the trees and grass. Also, having a bathroom of my own.What’s your favorite food(s)? Collard greens, macaroni and cheese, pot roast with potatoes, and sweet potato pie

What do you like to do in your free time? Go on the Internet and chat with my kids. How I communicated with my kids when I was in Iraq is I set them up with a Web cam. I communicated with them online so I wouldn’t have to go a month without seeing their faces.What historical figure do you most admire? Dr. Martin Luther King. He’s a very important historical figure in my life because he paved the way for me to go into the Army, or to be sitting here talking to you. The trail would have never been made for me to be here if he hadn’t made it.How special is to have your mother along with you this weekend? Very, very special. She has been a big support throughout the whole time I was deployed. Not just physical support, but mental support. She encouraged me to keep my faith and keep going to church – and yes, we had church. She just encouraged me so much.What are you looking forward to doing while in Glenwood Springs? Enjoying the scenery, relaxing with my mom and just giving other people the chance to meet me. I’m different, I’m not a quiet person, and I’ve got a southern drawl. I was nominated for this by my sergeants. I just want to give special thanks to my squad leader Sgt. Deleon, MSG Garcia, Sgt. Rademacher and the chain of command. And thank you to all the people pulling together to make this happen for the soldiers, including Mr. (Bob) Johnson. And God. I wouldn’t be able to do all of this basic training, Iraq without him. I gotta put him first.

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