By Capt. John A. Brimley, Mission Training Center Bliss Public AffairsAugust 12, 2014
EL PASO, Texas -- "I believe in signs, and I don't think it was a coincidence, as I stated, that I came across the article," said Joyce Abigail Chavez, the El Paso State Supported Living Center family relations coordinator, citing her words after was reading the El Paso Times last year about the 5th Armored Brigade change of command ceremony article.
A light bulb went off. This was her opportunity to make a dream come true for residents at the center, but Chavez had no idea that the forming partnership would be a match made in heaven.
First Army Division West's 5th Armored Brigade spends a day with the residents of the El Paso State Supported Living Center here, recently.
Col. Raul Gonzalez, 5th Armored Brigade commander, jumped at the opportunity to partner with the Living Center.
"I feel like we're the right organization for this partnership," said Gonzalez. "Not everybody enjoys this kind of work, but we have people that are passionate about it."Colson Wright and Edna Rojo, two of the more patriotic residents at the living center, visited the Dagger Brigade along with 10 of their peers back in April and that event kicked off the beginning of a flourishing partnership with lasting effect.
The El Paso State Supported Living Center is a residential home for mentally and physically disabled Texas residents.
During that visit, the residents had a guided tour of Fort Bliss followed by lunch with Gonzalez and 5th Armored Brigade and an awards presentation.
"Even though it's impossible for them to be a part of the United States Army, so I could at least let them be around it," said Chavez.
Jennifer Gonzalez, wife of the brigade commander, baked cupcakes, Raul presented them with medals and Command Sgt. Major Neil McKinley, 5th Armored Brigade command sergeant major, posed for pictures.
The visit was a hit, but Raul had more in mind for the partnership and so did Chavez. Her foundation, Make-A-Dream Come True, fancies itself on literally making dreams come true as it was able to do with JoJo Alvarez, a resident of the EPSSLC, by renting a limousine for a day bringing to life a magazine photo cut out he around in his pocket.
"Everybody has challenges. Our country was born by people who overcame challenges," said Gonzalez. "This type of relationship is special and I believe we can offer a lot."
Last month, the Daggers took a visit to the living center for a tour, recreation and workshop, an experience that resonated with many.
"There's a lot to be gained by both organizations. It gives us a chance to affect lives," said Lt. Col. Krista Soria, 5th Armored Brigade executive officer. "It also helps us to realize there's more to life than what we have going on."
The Soldiers visited the pods where the residents lived. Several Soldiers participated in sports such as volleyball and trampoline. Others helped out in the workshop where the residents made patio lights, shredded paper and assembled and disassembled electronics. The residents clung to the Daggers' every movement and every word.
"Their behavior is all over the place, but when you guys are around it calms them down," Chavez said. "It really warms their heart."
The residents from EPSSLC will visit the Dagger Brigade on Aug. 20 for Dagger Day.
"God puts people in your path for a reason and I'm so grateful you all were put in mine to bless them," said Chavez.