Soldiers take a break at Keeneland

The junk food and free disposable cameras were huge hits among Fort Knox troops who took a break from basic training Sunday to visit Keeneland for Military Appreciation Day.

But many of them were most thankful for a phone call.

Windstream Communications provided 50 telephones for the annual Keeneland event so that more than 1,000 soldiers could call their families.

Pfc. Jeffrey Butler of Sedalia, Mo., said a conversation with his wife, who is four-months pregnant, "went by so fast."

Butler, 21, was all smiles after learning that he would have his first daughter and hearing his 2-year-old son say "I Love You" for the first time.

"It's just good hearing their voices," Butler said.

Pvt. Eddie Acosta of Kearney, N.J., said it also was nice to be around civilians and away from drill sergeants for a day.

"It keeps you sane," Acosta said with a smile.

This was the fifth year for Keeneland's spring Military Appreciation Day and the third year that active-duty soldiers have been invited to the racetrack, said Christa Marrillia, special events coordinator at Keeneland.

"Many of the soldiers have never been to a racetrack," Marrillia said. "They're from all over the country.

Barry Bishop, a regional vice-president for Windstream, said when troops were first invited to Keeneland, many of them wanted to borrow cell phones from employees to call their relatives.

"It means a lot to them," Bishop said. "Many of them have not made a phone call home since they started basic training."