ROUND ROCK — Over 30 messengers from the 62nd Expeditionary Signal Battalion, 11th Theater Tactical Signal Brigade cheered on athletes during the 20th Annual Rotary Track Meet on Saturday. The meet is a sanctioned competition for Special Olympics athletes in the Central Texas area.

“Soldiers at Fort Hood have a very strong tie to the local communities,” said Lt. Col. Kenneth Rutka, 62nd ESB commander.  “Special Olympics Texas would not exist if it were not for the dedication of thousands of volunteers.  It was incredibly special to be a part of it and continue that strong tie to our local communities.”

The track meet began with the parade of athletes. During the parade, athletes from 12 different schools proudly waved their banners and walked through 62nd ESB Soldiers and the Round Rock Police Department officers receiving high fives and words of encouragement.

“Despite the cold weather, many of them smiled from ear to ear as they went through the tunnel of Soldiers and officers,” 1st Sgt. Brian Buschor said. “It was really awesome to see how much they lit up as they thanked us for our service, while we gave them high fives and pumped them up.”

During the track meet, the messengers cheered on the athletes as they endured the Texas weather and rain. Many athletes kept their giant smiles glued to their faces as they raced around the track competing for the gold.

Once the competition was complete, the Soldiers presented over 300 awards.

“Although we sincerely enjoyed the welcome tunnel, our Soldiers were incredibly fortunate to present the medals to athletes,” Rutka said.  “From my perspective, presenting medals to the athletes was the most rewarding community event I’ve ever conducted.”

In January, the 62nd ESB assisted in the Special Olympics Texas Winter Closing Ceremony. Many of the Soldiers agreed that they enjoyed the opportunity to see the athletes compete and present the awards during the ceremony.

After the completion of the award ceremony, many of the athletes and Family members gathered to take photos with the messengers while thanking them for their support and service.

“The event organizers, athletes and the Family members at the Special Olympics Texas Spring Games were very thankful for our service and for supporting the event,” Rutka said. “Our Soldiers truly enjoyed the opportunity to give back to the community that supports us so strongly.”

Rutka thanked the Round Rock Police Department for the coordination and invitation to assist in supporting the event.  

Jan Sartain, the event coordinator, said she was very grateful for the support from the 62nd ESB and credits the Soldiers as well as the police officers for the overall success of the track meet. She said she was looking forward to their partnership with the battalion continue.

 “Although several of our Soldiers have a personal or Family connections with the Special Olympics, most do not,” Rutka said. “I’m incredibly proud that over 30 Soldiers and Family members volunteered on a very cold, rainy Saturday morning with no special incentive to attend.”

 In the future, Buschor said he would love the opportunity to take his Soldiers to other Special Olympics events.