Courtesy photo
A group of soldiers surround local resident Ruby Hume during a visit to Hawthorne’s USO Convention Center.

An influx of military soldiers recently came through Hawthorne in a week-long training exercise which took place throughout many local areas.

The Hawthorne Army Depot, as well as neighboring hillsides and portions of Mineral County, were all points of military activity which many locals had observed. Heavy equipment and busy schedules were being played out, as the shooting range was active with dirt movers and the south end of the lake housed military watercraft as well as camouflaged-colored cargo trucks.

As soldiers were winding down their exhaustive training from a week-long stay, the military leadership offered soldiers some down time by suggesting that they spend time in town relaxing. Many walked into Hawthorne to see the Ordnance Museum and to catch a tour of the historic USO Convention Center.

“It didn’t take long for the auditorium at the USO to be full of soldiers milling around, asking about the facility and meeting with our director, Mike McNeill,” said Shelley Hartmann, director of the Economic Development Authority. “Mike asked me what we could do, so I quickly posted a plea on Facebook and started calling contacts to put something together for a few refreshments. Within two hours, food and water started coming through the doors. Over 125 soldiers were stunned by our town’s hospitality.”

Port-A-Subs donated 75 sandwiches, while the El Capitan Casino brought cases of water. Safeway donated cookies, more water and lots of fruit. Real estate agent, Donna Glazier donated more ice cream than the facilities freezer could hold, so soldiers were encouraged to eat it as it came through the door. Hartmann’s office brought in chips and other residents dropped off snacks and food items to assist.

At the height of it all, local resident, Ruby Hume, arrived to greet the young soldiers. Many stood in respect and listened as 92-year-old Hume publicly recalled her personal stories of serving as a USO hostess during the World War II era. She shared her memories of dancing with soldiers, assisting them in writing letters and working the soda fountain as soldiers came to relax at the USO. Looking at them with a smile she said, “It was a different time back then.”

But then, as if it were a scripted movie, a young soldier spontaneously asked if he could have the honor of dancing with her. He properly took her hand and led her to the front of the auditorium just as a spot light turned on, encircling a dance floor. Then the 1954 doo-wop song entitled “Earth Angel”, began playing over the loud speakers as the soldier and a now elderly USO girl stepped into a slow dance together.

Hartmann shared that applause exploded in the room, mixed with happy-tears as on-lookers shared in the unplanned moment. “Half-way through the song, another soldier stepped up and politely tapped the dancing soldier to ask if he could cut in. Of course, as a gentleman he stepped aside and handed Ruby over to finish the dance. I will never forget that moment of witnessing these honorable soldiers and proudly being part of what Hawthorne’s hospitality looks like today.”