SARATOGA Bottega Veneta SPRINGS — Army Capt. Jeffrey Miles was treated to a Saratoga getaway this winter, one year after he returned from a tough, one-year tour of Afghanistan.
In late February, Miles and his wife Heather left their children, ages 2 and 4, with family in Buffalo and arrived in Saratoga Springs for a three-day stay on Broadway. Their room in the Holiday Inn contained a gift bag from the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce and city businesses. In it were vouchers to eat at the city's finest restaurants, discounts for shopping, free museum passes and a $100 bill to help with gratuities.
The couple ate on the house at the Old Bryan Inn and elsewhere. They strolled Broadway's stores. The relaxing weekend reinvigorated Miles and his wife, he said by phone Monday.
"It was just a great opportunity to get away and unwind, decompress," Miles, 36, said. "We don't get a lot of time to ourselves."
Jeffrey and Heather Miles were among nearly 400 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans and family members who took advantage of the chamber's Military Respite Program between Feb. 1 and Sunday, its last weekend.
The New York Army National Guard helped the chamber identify ex-combat vets in New York, who were invited to enjoy short Saratoga vacations at no personal expense. The effort was modeled after the chamber's 2002 Respite Program that brought nearly 200 firefighters, police officers and emergency workers from the World Trade Center site to the city for free stays.
Denise Romeo, a chamber vice president, connected the veterans and family members with complimentary hotel stays, meals and more, even as her eldest daughter, Sgt. Maria Romeo, left their Clifton Park home for Afghanistan in March.
Maria Romeo, 23, is working as an Army intelligence analyst at Camp Leatherneck in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
"I know about the daily sacrifices, the worries and concerns," her mother said. "I get all of that."
The area's business community covered the cost of the rooms, meals and monetary donations, she said.
Army Sgt. Katrina Holmes, 31, brought her husband, Kevin, to Saratoga for his birthday weekend in late-February. They came from Erie County, stayed in the Courtyard by Marriott and ate at Forno and Cantina. "Walking up and down the strip, people watching and going into the little unique stores, that was definitely the highlight for me," Holmes said.
Members of the chamber will discuss the program's success at 11 a.m Bottega Veneta Women Crossboody Bags. Tuesday at 28 Clinton St. The names of the businesses who made the program possible are listed on the Times Union Saratoga Seen blog.
dyusko@timesunion • 518-454-5353 • @DAYusko