NORTH FORT HOOD, Texas -- Approximately 200 volunteers from throughout the Gatesville community came out to show some Texas hospitality to an estimated 900 Soldiers here at the 2015 Heart of Texas Salute to Warrior-Citizens, June 28.
"We see the sounds of freedom and sights of freedom every day from our golf courses and our back porches," said event coordinator Diana Fincher.
"This is our way of bringing our Families to the deploying Soldiers who are away from theirs," she added.
With activities ranging from horseback riding to barbeque, the fourth annual salute provided a much-needed break from the rigors of mobilization training for citizen Soldiers who, until recently, were back home with their Family and friends.
"They have a full-time career and a Family of their own," said Maj. Gen. Jeffrey N. Colt, Division West commanding general. "They put that aside in order to come out here and do our nation's bidding in a variety of roles."
Command Sgt. Maj. Gregory J. Clancy, senior enlisted advisor, 2nd General Support Aviation Battalion, 135th Aviation Regiment, said that although it was originally billed as "mandatory fun time," much to his Soldiers surprise, after a few minutes they all seemed to feel right at home.
"The folks of Gatesville set this up and it gets billed as mandatory fun but they [Soldiers] love it," said Clancy. "I think it was a great stress reliever outside of the normal training to just kind of let your hair down and relax a little bit and have some fun."
Colt also talked about how important communities like Gatesville are to supporting an Army that is vital to national security.
"It's their communities, it's their employers, it's their Families," said Colt. "Everybody sacrificing to get these people out to go do instrumental jobs for national security either to defend freedom or extend freedom."
Both Colt and Clancy expressed their gratitude for all that the Gatesville community has done for their Soldiers.
"We are very grateful to the community of Gatesville," said Colt. "I think it's important to remind everybody here that everybody wants to attend a great party but it takes something special to put it on, and to pick up after it. Especially for people you don't even know.
This community has a tradition of taking care of Soldiers year after year," he added.
"It's awesome," said Clancy. "Anytime you get folks who just, on their own, decide to come together to show their support and gratitude and put on a big shindig like this, it's just awesome."
Donna Sweaney of Gatesville, Texas, stressed the importance of recognizing sacrifice.
"They're away from their families. So important for us to recognize those sacrifices. We hope that our Soldiers enjoy it and we hope that the Soldiers know we love and respect them here in Texas, especially right here in Gatesville," said Sweaney. "We just want them to have a day where they don't have to think about anything and just have a good time."