Ernestine Faircloth spent 20 years in the U.S. Army, and she said when Ft. Gillem and its commissary closed, it devastated the community.
"It is so sad that you feel abandoned, you know? You feel as if there is nowhere else to go and no one else to talk to because you feel like no one else is listening," said Faircloth.
Faircloth said retirees like herself as well as the families of active duty personnel need the commissary to survive.
"I am 68 years old, so I am really counting my pennies when I shop. So not having a commissary is a big setback for us," Faircloth said.
Thursday morning the military opened the commissary for the first of three days. Military officials are calling it a trial period. Before it opened, people were forced to drive to Warner Robins, Augusta or Columbus to shop. Faircloth and others like her say that is too far.
"A lot of the veterans are older so they can't get two hours away. Most of them can't afford regular-priced groceries like working people because they are on retirement checks," said Jessica Malcom-Jarrick.
Hundreds, if not thousands, of people waited in the sweltering heat as long as five hours for a chance to shop at the commissary. Paramedics were called to the scene to treat people affected by the heat.
"They brought in a bunch of people inside the building and had them sit until they were able to get in line," said Marvin Werstler.
It's not clear if the commissary will return after it closes Saturday. Faircloth said she won't give up.
"We need support here, not in Augusta. They have support for their soldiers there. We need it here," Faircloth said.
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Tuesday, April 20 2010 11:21 PM EDT2010-04-21 03:21:00 GMT
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