Gatesville church brings Texas hospitality to training troops
By Sgt. Peter J. Berardi, 316th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Public AffairsMay 14, 2012
NORTH FORT HOOD, Texas -- Army Reserve Soldiers training here with Division West for their deployment to Kuwait were treated to some Texas hospitality yesterday organized by the First Baptist Church of Gatesville.
It was a beautiful, sunny day for the 2012 Heart of Texas Salute to Warrior Citizens that gave many Soldiers a chance to unwind from the training conducted all across Fort Hood during the week. The event included live country music, a free raffle for door prizes, horseshoe competition and more than a quarter-ton of barbecue.
One of the main organizers of the bash was Diana Fincher, a retired music teacher from Gatesville.
"We knew that Soldiers couldn't leave post once they were here, so we thought if they couldn't experience Texas, then we could bring Texas to them," Fincher said. "We really just wanted to express our appreciation to the Soldiers because they have chosen not to be with their families on Mother's Day, and that enables us to be with ours."
Fincher worked with North Fort Hood chaplain, Chap. (Lt. Col.) Paul Dirksmeyer, to organize the event, which took months of planning and preparation by both Fort Hood and the church. During that time, Fincher and the First Baptist Church reached out to the Gatesville community, resulting in more than 50 volunteers and more than 30 local companies to sponsor the event. They also received everything from 300 pounds of brisket and 150 pounds of sausage, to live Texas longhorns, and even Clifton Jansky performing live music.
Master Sgt. Raul Baird, an assistant inspector general with the Army Reserve's 316th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) out of Caraoplis, Pa., and a native of Brooklyn, N.Y., was glad that Texas came to the Soldiers.
"I got to meet Texas Rangers and see longhorns," Baird said. "I almost wanted to hitch a wagon and ride away with all the delicious food."
The event was great, said Sgt. Phong Le, a fueler with the 316th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) and resident of Albany, N.Y.
"I never realized what true southern hospitality was until today. I think we needed this after all of the training over the past couple of months," Le said. "We really appreciate all of the people that put this together. It gave us a sense of home, and that was nice."