Fort Bliss veteran's gala celebrates history, heroes
November 17, 2008
More than 800 people attended the ninth annual Veterans Day Gala, hosted by the Air Defense Artillery Association, Thursday at the Centennial Club here to honor 12 El Paso veterans of war.
"We try to attend the gala each year, because it's very important to honor those who fought for our freedom," said Melissa Martinez, a gala participant. "I also love the silent auction. I look forward to it every year."
Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Rodgers, Fort Bliss command sergeant major, began the patriotic ceremony by celebrating heroes and history with a tribute to fallen comrades, followed by an update of the many Fort Bliss Museum renovations presented by Peter Poessiger, master of ceremonies and director of the Fort Bliss museums.
Maj. Gen. Howard Bromberg, Fort Bliss commanding general, thanked veterans, their families and gala attendees for their support.
"It's because of your service and sacrifice that we live in freedom," Bromberg said to the veterans. "I also want to recognize the family members of veterans. Families are the strength behind military servicemembers, and they make great sacrifices to support them."
The special-category honoree was retired Lt. Col. Robert E. Chisolm, who served in three wars: World War II, Korea and Vietnam.
WWII honorees included former Sgt. 1st Class Domingo G. Balod, a Bataan Death March survivor; former 1st Lt. William S. Cooke Jr., a recipient of the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Ribbon with seven Bronze Service Stars; retired Air Force Lt. Col. Meterio J. Montez, a Croix de Guerre recipient; and former Pfc. Daniel M. Reade, a Purple Heart and Bronze Star recipient.
Korean War veterans included retired 1st Sgt. Eugene M. Scott, a Combat Infantry Badge and Purple Heart recipient; and retired Sgt. 1st Class Clarence G. Sperbeck, a former Korean prisoner of war, Purple Heart recipient and dedicated community activist.
Heroes for the Vietnam War were former 1st Lt. William B. Case, a recipient of the Air Medal with V device and Bronze Star, retired Warrant Officer Edward C. Ney, who throughout his career was awarded five Bronze Star Medals, one with V device and 13 Air Medals.
Operation Iraqi Freedom honorees included Staff Sgt. Scott Gentry of 4th Brigade, 1st Armored Division, who served two tours in Iraq. His awards include the Army Commendation Medal with Valor and the Purple Heart. Retired Sgt. Enrique Castillo Jr. also served two tours in Iraq. During his second deployment, his Humvee was struck by an improvised explosive device, causing him to lose his right leg. He is a Purple Heart recipient. Staff Sgt. Omar Hernandez, currently attached to the Fort Bliss Command Group, served three tours in Iraq. He is a Silver Star and Purple Heart recipient.
Hernandez said he was honored to be one of the chosen amongst the heroes. He said he received the Silver Star for doing his job and he would do it again. Hernandez received the Silver Star for single-handedly pulling two Iraqi National Police members out of the line of fire after they were shot, even though he was injured himself.
"Veterans are an important part of our history," said Jose Reyes, a gala participant. "It's crucial that we always remember."
The event serves as a fundraiser to support renovations and exhibit enhancements at the Fort Bliss Museums. The Air Defense Artillery Association raised more than $125,000, which will be used to refurbish and construct new exhibits.
"But most importantly, the event is to honor combat veterans," said Poessiger.