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Joey Ramsey, 15, left, throws a baseball for one of the games at the USO Midsummer Blast, as his brother Josh Ramsey, 13, looks on. They are the sons of Air Force Col. Mark Ramsey and Debra Ramsey, who reside on post. (Courtesy photo by Debra Ramsey)

Soldiers and Families gathered on the banks of the Potomac River at Fort Belvoir’s Castle Park, July 10 for a chance to relax, play and dine at the USO Midsummer Blast. Sara Martin, USO Warrior and Family Center program specialist, coordinated the event and said, “It’s the kickoff to the mid-summer timeframe for all Families and children to come out and enjoy the summertime.”

Martin said she enjoys this event, as it’s a great way to keep families involved in the community and allow them to network with one another while they enjoy some summer activities. USO staffers grilled food for the Soldiers and Families, as the children enjoyed a bounce house, a fastball pitching station and playing along the banks of Gunston Cove’s waters. 

This year’s Summer Blast had an addition. 

Carolyn Benson had been reaching out to USO chapters up and down the East coast to see if anyone would let her band come play American rock for the Soldiers. USO Metro extended that offer, so the band came down from Long Island, N.Y., for her first chance to gift her music to Soldiers and their Families. 

“This is where I want to be. I want to sing for the Armed Forces and bring some music, since it is a beautiful thread that brings everybody together,” Benson said. “Music is so healing for many and people need to hear it.” 

Since this performance was offered for free, Benson said her community held a fundraiser which allowed her to offset travel expenses. 

“I’m so blessed to be here. This is our initial kickoff playing for military Families, and, hopefully there will be more. We’re so thankful for all the men and women who have served our country, and this is our way of saying ‘thank you.’”