MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
Spouses of Marines and sailors competed in the Spouses Lejeune Area Kickball Association’s second annual Spring Thaw kickball tournament April 28-29. Many of the spouses were from 2nd Marine Division units, but those from other tenant commands on Camp Lejeune, Marine Corps Air Station New River and MCAS Cherry Point also joined in the fun and camaraderie to help a worthy cause.
The tournament raised approximately $5,000 for Wounded Warrior Battalion – East through donations and concessions, making it a rousing success based on the money raised -- nearly double SLAKA’s initial goal of $2,800. The remaining concessions were donated to the Camp Lejeune Fisher House.
“This tournament benefits Wounded Warrior Battalion – East’s Warrior Athletic Rehabilitation Program through concessions and the optional entry fee challenge. We donate the money to go toward that program,” said Caitlin Lewis, SLAKA’s commissioner. “The concession items are donated from all the teams, so that way we can maximize the funds that are donated.
“It's SLAKA's duty to give back to those who have served and made ultimate sacrifices for our great country,” she added. “Giving back to our local Wounded Warrior Battalion through the WAR Program hits close to home for SLAKA.”
Members of SLAKA not only participate as players, they run all facets of the tournament.
“They have to run the concession stands, umpire and keep score of other games,” said Lewis. “We're all supporting each other, not only by supporting our own teams, but every team that is a part of the tournament.”
The association was established in 2010 by the spouses of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit’s ground combat element, which, at the time, was Battalion Landing Team 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, and the 26th MEU’s aviation combat element, Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 266, to build camaraderie among spouses before the MEU left for deployment. The league has since expanded by word of mouth.
Camaraderie-building events for Marine spouses are common, but are not usually conducted through athletic competition, according to competitors. Events are also usually unit specific, making SLAKA especially unique.
“I think every opportunity you get for spouses to come together is good and I think for so many units to get together -- different units from all over this area – that rarely happens, spouse-wise,” said Pack Trotta, the wife of Master Gunnery Sgt. John E. Trotta with 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, and competitor for the battalion’s team, Spartan Pitches. “This one’s kind of across all those boundaries. You meet all kinds of people in all different kinds of units. To me, that’s very unique. I’ve been around the Marine Corps for 21 years, and this is the first time I’ve ever experienced that kind of mixing of units.”
Matches were friendly as competitors laughed and socialized with each other during the event. Nevertheless, tension rose in close games as each team was there to win.
“There are definitely competitive women,” said Jill Zagurski, the wife of Lt. Col. Tyler Zagurski with 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, and player for the battalion’s Lady Reapers. “Remembering that we’re ladies sometimes is difficult because the competitive side definitely comes out in people – it’s fun.”
The Spring Thaw is one of two major tournaments hosted by SLAKA each year. The other, the Fall Fling, raised more than $1,000 for Wounded Warrior Bn. – East last year. Lewis hopes a SLAKA-like league can expand to other bases around the Marine Corps so participants can continue to have fun playing kickball, even if they move to a military reservation outside the Jacksonville area.
“My hope is that this type of a league can extend to other bases so that when we (move) to another base we can continue to play kickball within our new unit,” said Lewis. “Hopefully, down the road, that will be the case.”