By Capt. Ryan Fritz, 120th Infantry Brigade, Division West Public AffairsJuly 22, 2014
NORTH FORT HOOD, Texas -- Mobilizing Army Reserve and National Guard Soldiers enjoyed a day of respite from training on North Fort Hood, Texas, experiencing Texas heritage Sunday afternoon thanks to the Gatesville community.
Gatesville held a "Salute to Warrior Citizens" event for over 1,000 mobilizing Soldiers.
Diana Fincher of Gatesville, lead coordinator for the event, said, "It is an honor to serve those who are serving us."
This is the city's way of "saying thank you for the sacrifice of the citizen Soldier," said Maj. Anthony Kazor of Bellevue, Nebraska, executive officer for 2nd Battalion, 393rd Infantry Regiment, 120th Infantry Brigade, Division West. Kazor was the Army representative helping organize the event.
After the Soldiers arrived, Fincher said, "It was particularly exciting to see the 2nd Battalion, 162nd Infantry Regiment marching up in formation."
The "Salute to Warrior Citizens" opened with the Texas Heritage Riders presenting the American Flag on horseback during the National Anthem.
Next, North Foot Hood became a bustling site of wrangling, archery, horseback riding, and country music.
Soldiers moved freely to different stations hosted by Gatesville residents. Stations included horseback riding, live goat roping and face painting for the children, simulated bull roping, recurve archery, visiting with Texas Rangers, animal demonstrations and much more.
The sheepdog herding demonstration was a favorite with the Soldiers. There were feral pig hunting dogs too, but their owners were unable to bring in some wild hogs for their demonstrations.
The large long horn cattle bulls were a hit too, for both Soldiers and the dozens of children present. The activities showcased the "Heart of Texas" to the Soldiers before they deploy to various locations around the world.
"It was an honor for us to express our appreciation for their sacrifice," said Fincher about all of the activities that were set up for the Soldiers.
To top off the festivities, home-grilled hamburgers and hot dogs were served while country musicians Cliff Jansky and Jack Murphy performed for the Soldiers.
The 120th Infantry Brigade has developed a strong, lasting partnership with Gatesville. Those who attended the "Salute to Warrior Citizens" were very grateful to the Gatesville citizens.
Carla Manning of Gatesville, and a Fort Hood Good Neighbor, said, "This is a such a small thing we could do for them, their sacrifice fighting for our freedom."
"In our small community, North Fort Hood is on our doorsteps," said Fincher. "In 2011 we realized that the function of North Fort Hood changed. We want to embrace them [mobilizing Soldiers]. We realize they are here for a short time and are restricted to post. We wanted to bring Texas to them and are honored to have the opportunity to do that.
"The primary support for this event was from the Gatesville faith community," Fincher continued. "Although several businesses provided support, 16 churches were involved. Out of over 1,000 Soldiers present, 696 Soldiers requested prayer. The main mission of the 'Salute to Warrior Citizens' has just begun."