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Soldiers tour downtown Oklahoma City

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ A dozen Fort Sill soldiers who didn't go home for Christmas got a whirlwind tour of downtown, including a visit to the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum.

Many of the soldiers were not even in their teens a decade ago when an explosion destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building and killed 168 people.

Pvt. Virgil Sabou, 19, did not know anything about the bombing until his visit Thursday morning. He grew up in a Romanian orphanage. Sabou came to the United States five years ago to go to school. He graduated from high school in Wolcott, Vt., in only three years, then joined the Army.

Pvt. Julian Mercado, 21, who was also on the tour, said he had been looking forward to the trip as a distraction from missing Christmas with his 3-year-old daughter in Puerto Rico. He will be able to see her next month after he completes basic training.

The group of soldiers, accompanied by a couple of their drill sergeants, did some snow tubing at SBC Bricktown Ballpark and made a quick stop at the All-College Classic at the Ford Center to unveil the American flag before the basketball doubleheader in a day packed with activities.

Pvt. Lee Krich opted for the tour instead of a holiday trip back to Lawrenceburg, Tenn.

``At home, I'd probably just be sitting around and playing my video games,'' said the 19-year-old, whose mother used to live in Oklahoma City.

Pvt. Ramsey Raher, 29, of San Francisco said he had been looking forward to Thursday's outing in Oklahoma City to make up for missing Christmas at home.

``It's a nice blessing,'' he said.

Pvt. Kavin Davis, 25, of Dayton, Ohio, chose to stay on post for the holidays because he wanted to learn more about Oklahoma before his parents come for a visit.

The tour grew out of a request by the museum. Downtown OKC Inc., the Bricktown Association and the Oklahoma City All-Sports Association teamed up to assemble activities for the soldiers.
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