Fort Bliss suspends Adopt-A-Soldier holiday tradition

EL PASO, Texas - A holiday tradition between El Paso and Fort Bliss that was welcome by many families is no more.

The 'Adopt-A-Soldier' program has been suspended by Fort Bliss officials because of a dwindling participation from soldiers.

For years, soldiers were matched up with a family who hosted them during Thanksgiving, all in attempt to give service members a warm holiday meal and company during a time spent away from home.

Last year, there were many families that wanted to host a soldier, but not enough soldiers who volunteered.

"We do not want to have the community upset if they don't have a soldier to visit with them and because the numbers were so small the decision was made to discontinue the program," said Jean Offutt, spokeswoman for Fort Bliss.

Offutt said the face of the soldier has change on Fort Bliss, the single-soldier population has gone down.

When Fort Bliss was strictly an air defense school, it was host to students from all over the world.

"We were training the single soldiers in the school they were not able to go on leave during the holidays. There was a large number, sometimes seven to 800 that were more than happy to go and visit with the families of El Paso," said Offutt.

She said Fort Bliss is now more of a training, maneuvering, deploying post, many of the soldiers are married with families and can take time off during the holidays to go home.

"I don't have a car and I would like to be adopted by a family to know more about Fort Bliss and to enjoy the place," said Private Gustavo Acosta, a single soldier who just arrived to El Paso two weeks ago.

Private Lisa Phonasa, who also arrived around the same time is married and has children who be moving to El Paso in several weeks, in time for the holidays.

Although she won't be alone on Thanksgiving, she would like the program to stay for those who want to participate," said Pfc. Phonasa.

Offutt said there is a lot to do on post for soldiers during the holidays.

"There are a lot things that go on within the units, the dining halls have huge meals and entertainment so a soldier has a lot to do at Fort Bliss. Many of them like to just watch football and relax. The single-soldier population we used to have some years ago is just not here anymore," said Offutt.

"We really appreciate over the years how many community members have hosted our soldiers," she said.

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