Fort Bliss honors veterans and naturalizes Soldiers
November 11, 2008
About 300 servicemembers, veterans and their family members turned out for the post's Veterans Day celebration Friday at Memorial Circle, during which specific veterans were recognized and 10 Soldiers from eight countries were naturalized.
Maj. Gen. Howard Bromberg, Fort Bliss commanding general, gave the keynote address.
"Our veterans crouched in the muddy trenches of Europe, confronted the enemies in the rocky mountains of the Italian Alps and struggled up the sandy beaches of Normandy," Bromberg said. "They froze in the bitter winters in the mountains of South Korea and steamed in the jungles of Vietnam. They chased terrorists over the 10,000-plus-foot mountains of eastern Afghanistan and have squinted against the dusty wind on the landscapes of Iraq."
Bromberg talked of how the more than 250,000 Soldiers deployed throughout 80 nations - including the approximately 140,000 Soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan - are defending freedom, maintaining peace and rebuilding cities.
"Troops have gone to far-away places in countries torn apart by conflict to stand in the middle and maintain the peace," he said. "They're building roads, bridges, schools and hospitals, providing water and electricity throughout the world. Our servicemembers have delivered food and clean water to millions left homeless after earthquakes and other natural disasters."
Raymond P. Adams, director of the El Paso Field Office of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, also spoke during the ceremony and naturalized a group of Soldiers from places including Haiti, Germany, Mexico and Palau.
"It is very important to remember these Soldiers are not yet citizens of the United States, but they're willing to serve and defend the United States," Adams said before their swearing-in ceremony. "So, it is on behalf of a very grateful nation that I have the honor of naturalizing these Soldiers."
Also during the Veterans Day ceremony, Bromberg asked two veterans to stand up as he outlined their accomplishments. One was retired Chief Warrant Officer James L. Hill, who now serves as the Fort Bliss safety director. Hill served 31 years in the Army and has worked in civil service for 26 years, but as Bromberg pointed out, he doesn't look old enough to have had such a long career.
"That's because he started early," Bromberg said. "Just a few months after the start of the Korean War, he kind of told a little fib about his age, and at 15 years old, he joined as an infantryman in the United States Army."
Hill was wounded twice, Bromberg said - once when a grenade exploded near him and a month later when, age 16, he was shot through the arm. He also served two tours in Vietnam as a helicopter pilot.
These were not Hill's only battles, Bromberg added. He also had to weather the transition of desegregation after President Harry S. Truman signed the executive order doing so.
"When the orders came down to integrate, Chief Hill - at that time Private Hill - and about seven other black Soldiers were transferred into an all-white unit." Bromberg said. "Well, it didn't take long for the Army to recognize - and his fellow Soldiers to recognize - that courage has no color, as you can see from Hill's record."
Bromberg also recognized retired Col. Alex Stuart, a 96-year-old veteran of World War II and the Korean War, and who is the oldest graduate of the U.S. Military Academy living in El Paso - a member of the class of 1934. He retired as an artillery officer in 1962, but continued working as a teacher, author and social worker.
"I wish I had the time to continue to recognize every single veteran who is here today," said Bromberg. "Our history will record the valor of our military in terms of units and armies, but these are made up of individual servicemembers. The role of the American Soldier, Sailor, Marine, Airman and Coast Guard member is to fight for the whole - that which is bigger than ourselves."
"Right here in this audience, I'm sure every veteran could tell stories of people in their units who have risked ... their lives to save their fellow Soldier in the defense of our nation," he added. "Those individual acts may never be awarded with ribbons or medals, but we will continue to remember and honor our veterans so that no Soldier will ever feel their actions were forgotten."