Military spouses rewarded with ‘Night Out'

Nearly 1,300 pampered with free dresses, beauty services

By Kent Justice - Anchor/reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Nearly 1,300 military spouses were honored with a “night out” at a new event launched Friday at the Veterans Memorial Arena in downtown Jacksonville.

The evening included beauty services, massages, fitness classes, self-defense demonstrations, CPR training plus food and drink.

A couple of people in Jacksonville’s Veterans and Military Affairs Department pointed fingers at each and said, “They deserve the credit, not me.”

The people who attended said they had a blast and gave credit to everyone involved, whether it was their idea or not.

“I think it’s great. We don’t get enough recognition, and it’s a great place to meet a lot of the wives and spouses. And I think it’s great. I really do,” military spouse Shannon Dawnson said.

Dawson’s voice was echoed by so many others as at the event.

They said they appreciate being appreciated.

“I think it’s fabulous because, as a military spouse, you sometimes forget to take care of yourself because you’re taking care of your family. Then someone says, ‘Let’s pamper you!’ It’s like, ‘Yes, please!’” military spouse Promise Vickers said.

Vendors lined the floor of the arena, offering lots of free things for military spouses.

“I actually think it’s a wonderful idea, you know. It’s a chance for us to relax and get pampered, which is awesome because nowhere I’ve ever been has done this,” military spouse Kenna Reklis said.

And through a partnership with the Greater Jacksonville USO, more than 800 Ann Taylor dresses were given out free of charge.

“This is the big deal. The USO is here to support our 50,000 military families. And today is a very, very special day as we honor the spouses of our military with wonderful brand new dresses and a wonderful day of beauty,” Greater Jacksonville USO Executive Director Michael O’Brien said.

Luckily, organizers helped keep things sane.

“We’ve got a numbered ticket system so it doesn’t turn into a black Friday cat-fight. Every 15 minutes, we call the next 50 back to try them on,” said Ashley Rogan with the City of Jacksonville Military Affairs and Veterans.

The event was huge hit, but the sentiment of saying thanks seemed to top all other considerations.

”This is wonderful! I was so surprised when I got the email from HOA. I said, that was so nice that they acknowledge the spouses because we play a big role. We keep everything going, the bills going, all the maintenance. Everything. And besides, keeping them encouraged from afar,” military spouse Symanthia Stewart said.

One woman told News4Jax that of all the places she’s lived because he husband has been stationed or deployed, Jacksonville shows the most appreciation.

And now, organizers said they want to do it again, after the success of this evening.

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