GATESVILLE, Texas -- Independence Day began and ended with a bang as Gatesville honored troops training on North Fort Hood with food and fireworks here July 4.

National Guard and Reserve Soldiers preparing for deployment with First Army Division West's 120th Infantry and 479th Field Artillery Brigades came out to celebrate one of the nation's most patriotic holidays with citizens and veterans.

"This is just a way of the community of Gatesville to show their appreciation to the Soldiers," said Carla Manning, Gatesville's military affairs representative. "I knew that they would have some time off, but not enough to go home, so we wanted them to be able to enjoy the 4th."

The day started with a town-wide showing at the Gatesville 4th of July parade. Veterans, Soldiers, citizens and Families came out to enjoy the star-spangled procession that the city's police, fire department, boy scouts and other merry-makers all participated in.

"We went to the parade earlier today and it was a big show of support," said Maj. John Miggins, 988th Medical Detachment commander from Round Rock, Texas. "Since we're local, a lot of our Family members have joined us today, so that's been a blessing. We can't ask for better; it's like home."

The holiday events continued later in the day, with Gatesville citizens and Soldiers enjoying a celebratory barbecue, while waiting for the evening fireworks show. Soldiers with various deploying units mingled and enjoyed food and fellowship with the local leaders and civilians.

"It seems to be a tight-knit community and very supportive of our troops and that's what we need," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Ralph Leonard, a maintenance technician with the 846th Transportation Company from Salisbury, N.C.

As the night of merriment continued, some Soldiers commented, not only on the celebration, but training as well.

"It's been a great experience this time. I deployed through here in 2009 and I can tell the definite difference in the quality of care, as far as training," said 1st. Sgt. Kelly Shuttleworth, first sergeant of 949th Medical Detachment (Veterinarian Services) from Ames, Ia. "It's also been nice to get out and see all the Families. We can't be around our Families, so it's nice to see other kids doing the same thing we would be doing back home."

As the fireworks heralded the end to a great day near "The Great Place," Division West's commanding general, Maj. Gen. Warren Phipps, Jr., reflected on the day, quality of training and the hospitality of the Division West's long-standing partner community.

"I think it's tremendous that the community of Gatesville goes out of their way to make Soldiers at North Fort Hood feel right at home as they get ready to deploy," said Phipps. "The Soldiers of our Army are one of our greatest national treasures, and we owe it to them to ensure that they're as prepared as they are for the missions that our nation is going to ask of them."

Page last updated Mon July 8th, 2013 at 10:07