HOUSTON, Texas - Today, only 1% of the United States population is currently serving in the military and the veteran population is declining. Now more than ever, the Army is focused and committed to retaining the most qualified, well-trained Soldiers that are eager to make a difference. On a humid Houston, Texas, night at Minute Maid Park, the opportunity to do just that was on display for the sold-out crowd of 41,000 screaming fans in attendance.
80 Soldiers from 13th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, 11th Signal Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division and other III Corps Soldiers stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, participated in a mass reenlistment ceremony at Minute Maid Park July 5.
This was the sixth recommitment ceremony the 13th ESC put together working with community partners across Texas, but the second consecutive July event hosted by the Houston Astros.
"Having the opportunity to give back to the military members and their families is something we feel very strongly about," said Andrew Remson, Houston Astros Community Relations. "This event is great for the city to witness firsthand and allows them to show their appreciation as well."
Sgt. Maj. Rex A. Fortner, 13th ESC's retention sergeant major, has been the driving force getting these events planned, and was happy with the outcome of this last one.
"This was my final event with the 13th ESC and also the biggest reenlistment we put on all year," Fortner said. "This was the best farewell I could have hoped for as I leave for my next assignment."
Before the Soldiers marched onto the field for the ceremony, their Family members and loved ones carried out a monumental sized United States flag before unfurling it so the ceremony could begin.
The commander of the 13th ESC, Brig. Gen. Darren L. Werner, administered the Oath of Enlistment and stressed that in a team environment like the military, it's not just the Soldiers that deserve recognition.
"It is not just the Soldier who is committed to this oath and the sacrifices that go along with it," Werner said. "The families of these Soldiers are also committed and continue to serve and sacrifice as well. We don't reenlist Soldiers, we reenlist families. Without the support of the Family, the mission simply would not get accomplished."
Pfc. Vonsha Chambers, 16th Tactical Installation Networking Company, 11th Signal Brigade, has been in the Army for just over two years and jumped at the opportunity to not only reenlist, but to do it on such a grand stage.
"I wanted to continue serving my country," Chambers said. "It was great being able to go to a baseball game and Jose Altuve is one of my top five players!"
Tuscon, Arizona, native Spc. Charles Williams, 13th ESC, has been in the Army for five years as an information technology specialist and didn't hesitate when it came time for him to make the decision to not only reenlist, but to join his fellow Soldiers on the field to do it.
"I feel a sense of loyalty, commitment and pride being in this ceremony," Williams said. "There is a great sense of comradery being out here with Soldiers I serve with, and doing it infront of this community makes it even better."
Seeing the ceremony unfold is something senior leaders embraced and Werner was extremely grateful.
"I couldn't be more proud of these Soldiers and their families for their commitment and dedication to our country," Werner said.