Soldiers thank community partners for friendship contributions
March 3, 2014
FORT HOOD, TX -- During a recent two-day whirlwind of events, the 120th Infantry Brigade showed appreciation to its Gatesville, Texas community partner for the great contributions the city provided to Division West throughout 2013.
To kick things off, the 120th hosted an evening event recognizing and celebrating six families that sponsored several mobilized soldiers during the recent holiday season.
The deploying soldiers from Colorado and South Dakota ranged in rank from private first class up to a first lieutenant.
Col. Timothy Bush, 120th's commander, the unit overall responsible for validating many mobilized Reserve and National Guard units for deployment, said, "We did our best to get all the Soldiers home for the holidays but there were seven that were unable."
Fort Hood Good Neighbor Carla Manning, who is also military affairs chairman of the Gatesville chamber of commerce, and Diana Finch, of Gatesville First Baptist Church, pitched the "holiday sponsor a soldier" concept to their peers.
"Everybody I asked said 'absolutely,'" said Fincher. In turn, Soldiers were able to leave post for a day, and enjoy a Texas-style holiday experience with Gatesville families.
Lynn and Tammy Barnett took Sgt. Jamey Hage of the 1742nd Trucking Company fishing on Christmas day. David and Pamela Hopson took Sgt. Mark Fenner, another 1742nd Soldier cattle roping. Gene and Joyce Edmonds took Pfc. McKenzie Warne horseback riding.
Other Gatesville resident sponsors included Kenneth and Marsha Fowler, Maj. Jim and Marie Barrows, and Debbie Piller. Additional families like Sam and Nancy Golden were ready to host, but -- unfortunately for them -- had no remaining Soldiers to support.
Joyce Edmonds, a first-time sponsor, said the event was "One of life's little pleasures. We (she and her husband) were raised in a large family, so a big Christmas is normal for us."
The group of Soldiers are now deployed overseas, but many are keeping in touch with their holiday sponsors who have already sent care packages, and communicate with them via email and facebook, said Debbie Piller.
The overwhelming feedback from the Gatesville families was that they had hoped for more Soldiers to welcome into their homes Christmas day.
The Brigade provided the venue, and gave each family a Certificate of Appreciation, but it almost seemed as though the community was again thanking the Soldiers for their service. At the event, Finch and Manning laid out a lavish spread of food and drinks, while David and Paul Hopson, a father-son duo, played a number of acoustic guitar songs for the audience.
Day two was an all-day event. The audience for this day was the individuals that contributed in December to a heartfelt holiday party at the Peacock Ranch in Gatesville. These were the individuals that donated, prepped, cooked and served food to the Soldiers and families of the entire 120th Infantry Brigade.
To reciprocate and demonstrate their gratitude, the 120th in turn hosted an intimate group of Gatesville residents, shuttling them back and forth between North and South Fort Hood to engage in a number of training activities that are commonplace to Soldiers.
The civilians received generalized briefings from Bush to gain a better understanding of the unit's overall mission and the Soldiers they prepare for combat on a daily basis.
The members took a break for lunch, and shared a meal in the Roosevelt Dining Facility with Bush's staff sections. The civilians were interspersed between Army officers and NCOs, and the group shared stories about their worldwide travels, debated barbecue, and talked hobbies such as hunting and fishing.
Capt. Miguel Davis, a 120th logistics officer and a proud Alabaman, said, "You can always tell where a person is from by how they eat their grits." He grilled Manning about grits in order to determine her origin. By Davis's standards, Manning passed the test when she nonchalantly described her preference for grits: cheese, salt and pepper.
According to Davis, and Maj. Michael Milliner, an intelligence officer, and also a native Alabaman, that is how most Southerners like their grits. "People from the North put sugar in their grits," said Milliner.
During lunch, Manning said that while the group loved the simulation center where they rode in HMVVs and played what seem like oversized target shooting video games, "Col. Bush's brief gave us an overall, big-picture idea about Fort Hood, which you just don?'t get typically as a civilian."
The unit and its partner civilians pressed on with more Army fun after lunch. The following day Bush sat down with his staff to begin brainstorming the next paired community event to further show his commitment and dedication to Gatesville.