Posts in Category: Texas Army National Guard

UT football team supports Texas Guardsmen

Texas Military Forces, soldiers and their families from The Texas National Guard spent a special afternoon with the University of Texas football players and coaches at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, Aug. 14, 2011.
In this image released by the Texas Military Forces, soldiers and their families from The Texas National Guard spent a special afternoon with the University of Texas football players and coaches at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, Aug. 14, 2011. This unique afternoon allowed military members and their families to get close and personal with their favorite Longhorn. The football players gained a greater understanding of the sacrifice members of Texas Military Forces endure to serve their state and country. UT Coach Mack Brown is a strong supporter of Texas Military Forces and stressed his sincere gratitude to all in attendance. The opportunity to bring together two great organizations to share synergies and give thanks made for a memorable event.

 

 Story by Spc. Eric Love 

 CAMP MABRY, Texas – Following a long drill weekend, members of The Texas Military Forces didn't mind staying  around a bit longer as their families joined them to share a special afternoon with the University of Texas football team.  More than 30 players and five coaches took time away from their pre-season training at the UT 40-acre campus to show  their appreciation and support for local guardsmen.
 
 After their Aug. 14 afternoon workout, the team arrived at Camp Mabry, Texas and loyal Longhorn fans braved the  sweltering heat to get one-on-one time with their favorite players. 
 
 UT Head Coach Mack Brown emphasized the importance of making time in their regimented schedule to reach out to the  surrounding community. On this occasion, they met with members of the TXMF, signing autographs and taking photos  with their fans.
 
 "Thank you for giving your lives; your families for giving their time and allowing us to have a free country and play a game  like football," said Brown. "[Saying thank you] is really important to us."
 
 Brown then started the team off with a customary "roll call" where each positional player contributed their own special  chant to kick-start the activities. The crowd was overwhelmed by the enthusiasm of the team and responded with a loud  "Hook 'Em Horns." 
 
 The players took time to mingle and say thank you to the service members, signing t-shirts, hats, footballs and posters.  Fans, young and old, expressed great appreciation and excitement at having a chance to see the players relaxed in an  informal gathering.
 
 "This was so cool," said Spc. Richard Castillo of 100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment. "It was great to meet the  coaching staff and players and I was surprised by how curious they were about what life is like in my uniform."
 
 Army Col. Patrick Hamilton, the joint chief of staff for the state adjutant general, discussed the vital role the UT football  players have in lifting a soldier's morale by giving a brief overview of activities members of The Texas Military Forces  engage as they are deployed oversees in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.
 
"After being out on a three day mission, soldiers look forward to waking up at 4:00am to turn on Armed Forces Network and watch a UT football game, allowing them to decompress," said Hamilton.
 
Hamilton then opened up the floor for questions from the players about military life. The topics ranged from the weight of the combat vests to discussing the similarities between football players and soldiers on leadership challenges, morale, teamwork, dedication and hard work. 
 
The answers, geared toward quality of life issues, provided the players valuable insight on the sacrifices the TXMF members encounter on a daily basis when deployed.
"We are truly grateful for all you do and defending our freedom, thank you for allowing us to play the game of football," said Brown.
Hamilton concluded the session by addressing how grateful the Texas Military Forces are for the Austin community.
 
"We are a community-based organization and being able to connect with the [Austin] community and an organization like the University of Texas is important," said Hamilton. "We are extremely grateful for Coach Brown and his team for coming out to Camp Mabry and giving up their precious time during this busy training camp, it really means the world to the soldiers within The Texas Military Forces."

Texas Guard taps well of experience

Service members and former general officers attend the inaugural conference of the Council of Retired Executives in the Texas Military Forces Museum at Camp Mabry, Texas, Aug. 6.
Service members and former general officers attend the inaugural conference of the Council of Retired Executives in the Texas Military Forces Museum at Camp Mabry, Texas, Aug. 6. The adjutant general of Texas proposed the idea of the senior mentor team built of retired military leaders who will lend their experience and guidance for the benefit of the Texas National Guard. A long-term relationship with former general officers ensures that their years of knowledge will not be lost and will remain available to Texas Military Forces.

 Texas Guard taps well of experience

 Story by Spc. Praxedis Pineda

 AUSTIN, Texas -- Senior and former leaders of the Texas Military Forces gathered at Camp Mabry, Texas for the  inaugural Council of Retired Executives, Aug. 6, 2011.

 Maj. Gen. John Nichols, the adjutant general of Texas, initiated the council in order to make use of their knowledge and  influence for the benefit of the Texas Military Forces. It also serves as a mentorship program that builds a lasting brain  trust within the state.

 “We want to capitalize on their experience,” said Nichols. “With over 30 years of experience, they have seen trends come  and go, but they have also seen what works.”

 Government and corporations alike often invite retired senior leaders to meetings and conferences to gain their input.

 Through the councilmen’s feedback, the Texas Military Forces will gain the guidance to face issues that current leaders  have not yet encountered. This new resource will target issues including recruiting, budgeting, and family relations. 

 “We are moving toward a time when resources are going to be stressed,” said Maj. Gen. Mike Taylor, retired. “We have  been there before”

 With a weakened economy and a downgraded military force, this is the right time to conserve resources and elicit the aid  of experienced veterans. With this new council, Nichols can more efficiently engage the challenges that lay ahead.

“I don’t know of any other TAG that has done this,”  said Col. Suzanne Atkinson. “It is a great benefit to be able to bring all of these men in the same room”

With unique experiences and backgrounds, each member contributes something different. Many of these former general offices continue their service as civilians in other departments of the military.

“We have Gen. Owens (working for the National Guard Bureau) giving us the latest and greatest information,” said Atkinson
Many others maintained their leadership role in their communities as politicians, business owners, and heads of organizations.

“We have people here from all over the state,” said Taylor. “A lot of us are embedded in the community.

The councilmen all had equal input on the future of the Guard they once led. All members had the opportunity to voice their expert opinions.

“[Nichols] opened up the floor for discussion,” said Taylor. “No limits when he asked for feedback.”

The goals of this first meeting did not specifically include problem solving sessions or resolution of pending issues. Instead, the adjutant general and his stall briefed the council on current missions and discussed the new capabilities of the Texas Military Forces.

“It gave us a chance to showcase what we’re doing now,” said Atkinson. 

Nichols concluded the conference with one question: “If you had the opportunity to do it again, what would you change?” 

One by one, the councilmen gave their answer, leaving Nichols with invaluable notes. Nichols had tapped a well of experience.

“We don’t want to go down a road with no return that puts our structure at risk,” said Nichols. “I consider it a huge success”

Texas troops, civilians march in honor of fallen heroes

Texas Military Forces, service members, families and local civilians participate in the 5th Annual March For Fallen Heroes in Austin, Texas, May 28, 2011.
In this image released by the Texas Military Forces, service members, families and local civilians participate in the 5th Annual March For Fallen Heroes in Austin, Texas, May 28, 2011. The event, held each year on Memorial Day weekend, honors service members who have lost their lives in the global war on terror, as well as lost veterans of past wars. Participants marched a 7.6 mile route from Zilker Park to the state capitol and back in memory of their lost loved ones. Army Staff Sgt. David Mendiola has organized and executed the Austin event ever since first hearing about a similar march in an issue of GX Magazine.

 

 Story by Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Griego

 For some, Memorial Day means little more than a long weekend of barbequing that starts off the summer each year with  fun and activities. For a small band of patriotic service members and civilians, however, the somber day that recognizes  the countless lives lost in American conflicts overseas and stateside is not a celebration, but a solemn reminder of the  sacrifices necessary to ensure the freedom and safety of our nation.

 "Keep in mind who we're walking for," said Army Staff Sgt. David Mendiola at the start of the 2011 March for Fallen Heroes. "Let's make sure the community knows, and never forgets."

 The annual event, now in its fifth year, brings together veterans, family members, current service members and citizens of  all ages for a 7.2-mile foot march from Austin's Zilker Park to the state capitol and back. As a staple affair in the Texas  Military Forces, which includes both the Texas Army National Guard and the Texas State Guard, the march additionally  serves as a community outreach program, inviting Austinites to participate who might not even have family in the armed  forces.

 "Today is great," said Mendiola. "We had a lot of participants show up today. We have more civilians this time, so I'm  pleased about that."
 Mendiola, who started the Texas march four years ago, first got the idea for a memorial foot march after reading a story in  Guard Experience Magazine about a Tennessee guardsman who carried the U.S. flag around his town in honor of those  who died in the Global War on Terror.

 "I immediately went to my first line supervisor," said Mendiola, recounting the day he read the article. "Within three weeks,  me and three other members of my section met up at Zilker park, we loaded up and we started walking toward the  capitol."

 "I'm marching for my buddy Anthony Green," said Army Sgt. Donald Denson, "[killed in action] in Afghanistan two years  ago, and every other soldier that fought for the 36th ID from World War I until now."

 Denson, a soldier with Austin's 36th Combat Aviation Brigade Headquarters, brought with him to the march his son, who  recently enlisted in the Texas Army National Guard.

 "I feel like a soldier now," said Army Pvt. Michael Denson, Donald's son. "It's a real good feeling to be able to march with  everybody out here."

 Texas veterans from outside the Texas Army National Guard proudly joined the march thanks to Mendiola's networking  efforts.

 Preston Rogers, an Army veteran who served in Vietnam from 1968 to 1970, learned about the event after meeting Mendiola on-line.

"We're on a Facebook group together, Friends of Texas," said Rogers.

Rogers also brought his older brother, William Rogers, a veteran of the Navy who served from 1960 to 1965.

"I'm grateful to the people that are here," said William Rogers. "I'd like to see more people out here."

The increased turn-out for this year's march means more and more Texans each year are getting the word. The support for those involved has been resounding.

"When I was out there this morning," said Mendiola, "looking out at the crowd, it hit me hard."

For more information about this year's March for Fallen Heroes and how to join the memorial walk next year, please visit www.marchforfallenheroes.com or e-mail the event coordinator, Staff Sgt. David Mendiola at mfh1775@yahoo.com.

 

Volunteers Reenact World War II During American Heroes 2011

Reenactment enthusiasts recreate a battle from World War II on Camp Mabry, Austin, Texas, April 16.
Reenactment enthusiasts recreate a battle from World War II on Camp Mabry, Austin, Texas, April 16. The show for service members, their families and civilians was a part of the American Heroes celebration. The two-day event was designed to increase the communication and interaction between the local community and the military.

 

 Story by Sgt. Joisah Pugh

 CAMP MABRY, Texas – Once a year, Austin hosts a Texas Military Forces celebration designed to increase interaction  between the local community and service members called American Heroes. One of the more popular events taking place  during the two-day event was a World War II reenactment performed by a group of local enthusiasts.

 “We see this as a time capsule for our visitors to walk into, so that as much as possible, we can surround them with the look  and feel of what happened back in the 1940s,” said Director of the Texas Military Forces Museum, Jeff Hunt.

 Volunteers as young as 14 participated in the simulation, although most of the reenactors were older. Students, doctors,  lawyers, army veterans, historians and teachers comprised a majority of the actors. They slept in World War II style tents near  the battlegrounds and did their best to mimic what life was like for American soldiers of the period. 

 “For so many kids today, history is compressed. They go through it so fast in the schools and memorize the name, place, date,  what happened and regurgitate it on a standardized test,” said Hunt. “History is really a much more dramatic and exciting thing  than that. We want kids to understand that history is not just a lecture, not an old documentary and it’s not a story that grandpa  tells that maybe you only half believe. History is something that lives and breathes. You can hear it, you can feel it, you can  taste it, you can smell it. When the kids get out here and they feel the rumble of a Sherman tank going by, they hear the crack of  one of those guns, they smell the smoke, they see the muzzle flash and they watch people not a lot older than themselves moving across the battlefield, it really does breathe life into the whole experience.”

The emulated battle replicates one fought by the 36th Infantry Division during the invasion of southern France. The museum spent more than $4,000 on pyrotechnics, airplanes, vehicles and blank ammunition to wow the audience. To onlookers, the museum’s budget may have appeared far more massive because the nearly 180 reenactors augmented the museum’s props with their own equipment like uniforms, tents, private vehicles and even tanks.

“If the movie companies were doing this, it’d be a million dollar shot,” said Hunt.

“I think it’s pretty important that young people understand the luxury of peace they have, the security they have and the freedoms they have,” said Hunt. “All of that was purchased and all of that has been secured in the price of service and sacrifice of the men and women in uniform. Many of whom have spilled their blood and many of whom have laid down their lives to give us the kind of world where battles are the sort of thing you reenact and they aren’t things that really happen.”

“It’s good for recruiting because you get a little eight-year-old boy out here watching this battle reenactment and his eyes are popping out,” said Hunt, “You know he walks away with a positive attitude about the military and ten years later he’s much more likely to raise his right hand and take that oath than a kid who’s never been exposed to the history in this way.” 

“It was really cool and I thought it was a good example of World War II,” said Geno Albini, a young boy who watched the show.

Diane Laube, a first-time visitor to the American Heroes celebration, explained her mother was a French denizen who lived through World War II. She imagines that the reenactment might have been what her mother experienced as a young woman in war-torn France.

“I had a great experience here today,” said Laube. “Keep doing it, keep educating everybody, because this is a legacy we need to keep perpetuating.”

TXMF hosts naturalization ceremony during American Heroes Celebration

Texas Military Forces, civilian and military attendees of the American Heroes Air Show paid tribute to names on the American Veterans Traveling Vietnam War Memorial on Camp Mabry Saturday, April 16.
In this image released by the Texas Military Forces, civilian and military attendees of the American Heroes Air Show paid tribute to names on the American Veterans Traveling Vietnam War Memorial on Camp Mabry Saturday, April 16. The exhibit was just one part of the AHAS, a decades old event held in Austin to honor veterans and currently serving military members.

 

 Story by Sgt. Melissa Bright

 AUSTIN, Texas - The Austin Police Department and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services paired with the Texas Military Forces to host a naturalization ceremony April 16, during the American Heroes Celebration at Camp Mabry in  Austin, Texas.

 The ceremony is just one element of the two-day festival that also featured static displays, multiple military  demonstrations and family activities designed to increase awareness within the Austin community of it's substantial  military heritage.

 "This is the second year we have been able to hold this ceremony during American Heroes weekend," said Wuthipong  'Tang' Tantaksinanukij, a corporal with Austin Police Department's Air Operations Unit. "In 2010, Jim Paules invited us to  hold a ceremony here during their American Heroes weekend and we were able to swear-in 13 service members from all  five branches of service. We had double that number this year and hit all branches of service again except for the Coast  Guard."

 Paules, president of the American Heroes Aviation Network, coordinated with the founders of the American Veterans  Traveling Tribute to bring a replica of the Vietnam War Memorial stretching over 380 ft long from end to end to serve as the  backdrop for the ceremony.

"My husband Edmond was in Vietnam in 1968 and again in 1970 to 1971," said Alma Croix as they walked in front of the wall. "I think being able to see this exhibit in Austin is just wonderful."

"The first time we saw the wall in San Antonio I was so overwhelmed," she said. "I couldn't even speak the names of the friends we lost, I had to write them down for the assistants to look up."

The 80 percent-scale replica of the Washington, D.C., Vietnam Memorial Wall displays all 58,253 names of the men and women killed in the Vietnam War.

"It is an honor for us to provide our Vietnam Memorial Wall as the backdrop for members of the military as they recite their oath of allegiance," said Don Allen, executive director of the AVTT and retired U.S. Army Special Forces. 

The AVTT is a veteran-owned project that travels the country to provide a forum for communities to honor, respect and remember those who have sacrificed their lives for our freedom. 

The wall was the perfect reminder of what it takes to be American for the 25 service members and military one spouse representing 15 different countries sworn in by the Honorable Lee Yeakei, U.S. District Judge for the Western District of Texas.

"I am very excited to be able to do this but today is even more special for me because I was able to do a rubbing of my uncle's name for my mom," said Marine Cpl. Alejandro Mascorro.

"We’re proud to be part of this event at the Texas Military Force’s historic Camp Mabry while we honor all Veterans and those currently serving by letting them know they will never be forgotten," Allen added.

"This is start of my new life," said Army Spc. Jeanette Ponce, with Charlie Company of the 36th Infantry Division in Austin. "I am just so excited to be here today finally fulfilling my dream."

The Adjutant General of Texas hosts Texas Military Forces senior leadership conference

Texas Military Forces, Col. Patrick Hamilton addresses key military and civilian leaders at the JJ Pickle Research Campus, in Austin, Texas, Thursday, April 7.
In this image released by the Texas Military Forces, Col. Patrick Hamilton addresses key military and civilian leaders at the JJ Pickle Research Campus, in Austin, Texas, Thursday, April 7. Hamilton was recently appointed Chief of Staff for Maj. Gen. John Nichols, The Adjutant General of Texas. Nichols had several goals for the event including enhancing interpersonal relationships within the different groups and beginning to address issues that impact the culture and readiness of the TXMF. Representatives came from the Texas State Guard, the Air National Guard, the United States Property and Fiscal Office, several Army National Guard brigade commanders and the office of the TAG.

 

 Story by Staff Sgt. Melissa Bright 

 AUSTIN, Texas - Coffee cups and presentation packets vied for table space as senior members of the Texas Military  Forces gathered for a two-day information and introduction conference at the JJ Pickle Research Campus with Maj.  Gen. John Nichols, the most recent appointee to the office of the Adjutant General for Texas.

 Attendees of the conference included members of the Texas Army National Guard , Air National Guard and State  Guard, with a cross section of representatives from the officer, enlisted and civilian workforce directly involved with the  Adjutant General’s office. 

 Nichols’ goal for the event was two-fold. First, he wanted to provide an opportunity for interpersonal relationships to  develop, enhancing communication across the services. Second, he sought to open a forum introducing and  addressing issues impacting the culture and readiness of the TXMF.

 “This is an opportunity for each of our groups to calibrate our compasses to be in tune with the vision [Nichols] has for  Texas service members,” said Col. William Hall, Joint Task Force 71 commander. “But also, for each of our groups to be  in tune with each other; to better see how we can support and in turn be supported.”

 Conference planners designed the gathering to function as a relationship-building and advance-planning tool in a  mutually-supportive environment. Each group took the opportunity to present their resources, expertise and potential for  growth while maintaining frankness on limitations and opening the floor for discussion. 

 “One of the greatest advantages our members bring to the table is our passion for volunteerism,” said Maj. Gen. Ray  Peters, commander of the Texas State Guard, as he presented the capabilities and limitations of the no-contract force  that make up the TSG. “To join the State Guard you have to possess a distinct passion to serve, specifically as a selfless  leader.”

 “However,” he continued, “we are faced with true tests as leaders to keep our members engaged without any contractual obligation.”

Conference attendees fulfilled Nichols, few yet substantial goals through a series of break-out sessions and forums where both the officers and enlisted personnel discuss new training programs, the current state of the Texas Military Force as a whole, and new changes in doctrine like the repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. 

“When our leadership starts talking policy, how best to create or enforce it, I consider it my highest priority to be in the room,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Jimmy Broyles, command sergeant major for the Texas Army National Guard. “There are times when the enlisted voice needs to speak up. I use my experience to help guide these talks to increase the chances of a positive outcome for both enlisted and officers.” 

Nichols noted that this casual format enables individuals to spend more time informing themselves on issues and opportunities that exist in support of command and its mission, while allowing ample time to develop crucial personal networks.

“The cross talk that results from having us all here together allows synchronization and development of improved ways ahead,” said Brig. Gen. Joyce L. Stevens, the assistant adjutant general-Army for Texas and commander of the Texas Army National Guard. 

Stevens supervises the operations, training and readiness, and resource allocation for both state and federal missions and serves as the principal advisor to Nichols on all matters concerning the Texas Army National Guard.

Nichols closed out the event by requesting the attendees re-affirm their promise to uphold the values that act as a common bond for the Texas Military Forces.

As one the group stood, raised their right hand and recited the TXMF values that spell out LONE STAR: Loyalty, Opportunity, Networked, Ethics & Excellence, Selfless Service, Texas Spirit, Adaptability and Ready.

National Guard Association of Texas Conference 2011

Soldiers and airmen visit over 80 different vendors of civilian and military products and services inside the American Bank Center exhibit hall during the 52nd annual National Guard Association of Texas Conference in Corpus Christi, Texas, March 26.
Soldiers and airmen visit over 80 different vendors of civilian and military products and services inside the American Bank Center exhibit hall during the 52nd annual National Guard Association of Texas Conference in Corpus Christi, Texas, March 26. The exhibit hall offered a one-stop shop for attendees to try out an array of new technologies and services geared toward military use. NGAT has traditionally worked diligently with our state and national legislature on several quality of life improvements for Texas Military Forces, along with being an opportunity for people to discuss new ideas and identify future goals.

 

 Story by Spc. Suzanne Carter

 CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas - As the waves crashed against the harbor, hundreds of men and women dressed in army  combat uniforms and air battle uniforms converged on Corpus Christi, Texas, for the 52nd annual National Guard Association of Texas Conference.

 This conference brings together enlisted and officer personnel from the Texas Army, Air, and State Guard, providing a  forum for all service members to voice their issues and messages for the Texas Military Forces in a public domain. 

 Senior leadership accomplishes the mission of this conference through a series of break-out sessions and forums  where both the officers and enlisted personnel discuss new training programs, the current state of the Texas Military  Force as a whole, and new changes in doctrine like the repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. 

 "Many times when you try to send emails back and forth, you don't always get your true point across to everyone," said  Maj. Ian Manire, executive officer for the Headquarters of the Texas Air Guard. 

 Whereas past conferences focused on assembling large numbers of Guardsmen to distribute the information at one  time, this year's conference embraced individual growth breakout sessions as noted by Air Force Maj. Gen. Nichols, the Texas adjutant general.

 "The new format should enable each of you to spend more time informing yourselves on those issues and opportunities  that exist in support of command and its mission, while allowing ample time to network with your fellow conferees." said  Nichols.

 NGAT also gave the newly appointed Texas Adjutant General the opportunity to convey his mission and strategic vision  to all of the state's military personnel at one time. 

For his first key point, Nichols stressed the importance of placing the solider, airmen, civilian, and family first in order to have a more efficient and effective force. Throughout the conference, speakers and guests echoed this message in public forums, breakout sessions and activities. 

To satisfy this strategic vision of placing the people first, Nichols announced his top priority of ensuring the soldiers and airmen of the Texas Military Forces have the finest resources, equipment and training available, both at their drilling stations and at the duty schools they attend throughout their service.

"We need to make sure that everyone we send to the various schools are actually able to go and finish them the first time," said Brig. Gen. Joyce Stevens, Army assistant adjutant and commander of the Texas Army National Guard. "This will help not only to save money that can be put to other goals, but help our soldiers stay at home as long as possibly with their friends and family." 

Most service member may have only expected to attend meetings, but the conference also featured an exhibit hall, hospitality rooms, an evening banquet and social mixers.

Vendors in the exhibit showed their support for the Guard by allowing the Guardsmen to see a wide range of products and services geared toward the military. The booths touched on different aspects of military life from food, hygiene, education, and equipment storage to training like the mobile range system and the interactive Laser Shot simulation.

"We want to introduce this product to the entire state of Texas, since it is one of the largest states and has one of the largest National Guard forces," said Gregory Turner, sales development and management for Strategic Systems Incorporated. We saw NGAT as the best place to demonstrate our product." 

The conference offered several sessions geared toward Guardsmen's families, educating them on the Family Readiness Group and their resources that many service members overlook or misunderstand, such as suicide and crisis preventions. 

In both the opening ceremony and the dinner held during the conference, senior officials presented awards to volunteers and family members of Guardsmen for their exemplary volunteer service to the units of the Texas Military Forces.

"This is a great way to show our appreciation and support we have for the men and women in the National Guard for the services that they provide for us each and everyday," said Rose Montao, a member of a Family Readiness Group out of San Antonio, Texas. 

At the conclusion of the conference, Guardsmen returned home to rejoin their units and share the lessons they garnered during the weekend of networking and collaborating with their peers and comrades.

"This is one of the few opportunities where you can get everyone together," said Manire, "looking at each other eye to eye and talk about those issues that we don't always get a chance to do."

Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Military Appreciation Day

In this image released by the Texas Military Forces, service-members and their families attend Armed Forces Appreciation Day at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo in Houston, Texas, Tuesday, March 2. Events inside the main arena included mutton-busting for the children of service members, a demonstration by the U. S. Air Force Combat rappel team and a concert by Trace Adkins. Volunteers and AFAD committee members worked tirelessly months, pulling together the people and resources to provide a proper thank you to all the sacrifices made by the men and women in uniform.

 

 Story by Sgt. Melissa Bright 

 HOUSTON, Texas-- More than 3,000 service members and their families attended Armed Forces Appreciation Day at the  Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, March 2.

 In addition to the Houston-area service members with the Marines, Coast Guard, Air and Army National Guard and  Reserve, more than 1,100 Army III Corp troops and their families were bussed in from Fort Hood, Texas; accompanied by  Brig. Gen. Peter Atkinson, Deputy Commanding General (Canada) for III Armored Corps and Fort Hood.

 The events were open to veterans and current service-members.
 Individuals in their military uniform or carrying their military ID card were given free entry into the carnival. Once inside the  gates, several events were scheduled to honor their service, starting with a catered barbeque luncheon.

During the luncheon, attendees were treated to guest appearances from two Texans cheerleaders; Miss Houston 2011, Annie Flores; and Miss Rodeo Texas Princess 2011, Liz Hughes.

Afterwards, the crowd made their way to the west side of the Reliant Center for a welcome ceremony where U.S. Army Field Band Staff Sgt. Tracy Labrecque sang the national anthem for the second year in a row following a multi-service color guard presentation.

Shortly following the ceremony, troops and their families made their way into the Reliant Stadium to watch several rodeo events including a Mutton-bustin’ competition restricted to children of military members, a demonstration by the U.S. Air Force rappel team and concert by country music artist Trace Adkins.

Ceremony brings sister cities together 2-2

A George Washington portrayer hold a small Mexican flag to represent the unity of not only the twin sister cities of Laredo and Nuevo Laredo, but The United States and Mexico themselves in All I Want for Christmas Is New Year's Day.
A George Washington portrayer hold a small Mexican flag to represent the unity of not only the twin sister cities of Laredo and Nuevo Laredo, but The United States and Mexico themselves in All I Want for Christmas Is New Year's Day. The representation is part of a traditional ceremony held during the George Washington's Birthday Celebration in Laredo. 

 

 Story by Pfc. Praxedis Pineda 

 LAREDO, Texas - A miniature George and Martha Washington meet with a Mexican cowboy and his wife on the Texas-  Mexican border. The annual International Bridge Ceremony commences with the exchange of the “abrazo,” or hug,  between four children; one couple portraying the first American president and his wife, and the other representing the  people of Mexico. 

 For more than thirty years, the International Good Neighbor Council, in conjunction with the Washington Birthday Celebration Association of Laredo, Inc., has hosted the ceremony on the Lincoln-Juarez International Bridge in Laredo,  Texas. This ceremony serves as the culmination to a month long event that celebrates the birthday of the first U.S.  president. In this annual tradition, dignitaries from the sister cities of Laredo and Nuevo Laredo, the states of  Tamaulipas and Texas, and both countries, come together to exchange the Abrazo.

 "Both countries have a similar cultural history,” said Carlos Garza, military liaison for the WBCA. "The only thing that has  divided the United States and Mexico is a river."

 Laredo was once a Mexican city, but after the Texas Annexation in 1845, it officially became a part of Texas and the  U.S. Feeling like they belonged in Mexico, many families eventually returned across the river to found the city of Nuevo  Laredo. 

 “They are related in business," said Garza. "They are related in family.”

 The Bridge Ceremony is a century-old tradition, yet the abrazo has only been incorporated in the last 70 years. Ever  since, the IGNC has invited Texas Military Forces and government officials to participate in this unique occasion.

 According to Garza, Laredo has a long military history, which influences the local youth. The United South High School  Marine Corps JROTC participated in this year’s Bridge Ceremony as the link between the two nations. Their sabers  were raised over the representatives of each country as they walked onto a ceremonial red carpet in the middle of the  international bridge. The Martin High School Army JROTC held the 50 U.S. state flags and the local Texas Army  National Guard’s Color Guard presented the nation’s flag during the National Anthem. 

 Honored military guests included Maj. Gen. Jose S. Mayorga, former Texas Adjutant General; Brig. Gen. Charles A.  Miller, Texas State Guard chief of staff; and Col. Donald Prince, commander of the 5th Air Wing Texas State Guard. 

 “Patriotism for the American flag is a top priority,” said Garza.

Along with the abrazo, dignitaries trade small American and Mexican flags to symbolize the countries’ support and good will toward each other. Honored guest, Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives Joseph R. Straus, exchanged flags with Monica Gonzales Garcia, representative of the state of Tamaulipas. Other government officials followed these delegates, to include the revered first U.S. President George Washington.

Francis Averill Jr. portrayed the first president of the United States and an actor playing Father Miguel Hidalgo, the father of Mexican Independence, served as his counter part. Both historical figures exchanged the Abrazo and traded their respective nation’s flags. This symbolic gesture ends the International Bridge Ceremony each year. 

The deep Hispanic heritage embedded in the people of Laredo, helps build a unique relationship with Nuevo Laredo and its country.

“We are blessed to have a culture that is a mix of both American and Mexican,” explained Garza, “and it’s a great honor and privilege to be a part of these festivities.”

NGAUS Conference Builds Families, Friendships

National Guard Officer and spouse have some down time to unwind early in the evening at the barbeque mixer at Austin's Schultz Beer Garden during the 132nd National Guard Association of the United States General Conference.
National Guard Officer and spouse have some down time to unwind early in the evening at the barbeque mixer at Austin's Schultz Beer Garden during the 132nd National Guard Association of the United States General Conference.

 

The National Guard Association of the United States supports Guardsmen across the country with advocacy efforts and standard of living improvements. This week's general conference for the association, held in Austin, Texas, brought together not just the service members, but also their spouses. While the association members enjoyed mixers, banquets, exhibits and professional meetings, their loved ones enjoyed shopping excursions and bonding events.

With events scheduled specifically for spouses, the conference enabled these dedicated family members to network with one another, develop a strong support system, and build lasting friendships.

The spouse shopping excursions to San Antonio, San Marcos, Austin and Fredericksburg offered participants the opportunity to see the colorful cultures of Texas, rich with Hispanic culture.

"I love it," said Gina Welch, the wife of Army Maj. Wyatt Welch and mother of three, from Bowling Green, Virginia. "I always look forward to attending these events. It is somewhat of a getaway." 

Nearly 200 spouses traveled to San Antonio for a day of sightseeing, shopping, and Texas history. The city's beautiful Riverwalk and the famous Alamo provided much-needed decompression and morale boosts to the busy participants looking to share an adventure. 

Pat Wilkinson chose the San Antonio excursion "to learn something about the history of the Alamo."

In addition to the bonding excursions, the spouses enjoyed the special opportunity to build a strong support system as members of NGAUS. Spouses are able to learn from one another's experiences and struggles by knowing that there are many other people on whom they can rely. 

Further, the conference affords family members education possibilities that foster support and trust for their service member and the service member's duty. For NGAUS and its representatives, becoming knowledgeable of the intricacies of the military lifestyle comes first in supporting a community of troops.

"We know it's not just the military member that serves," said Texas State Senator Leticia Van De Putte. "It's the entire family."

The senator encouraged her audience to support their spouses' call for duty, sharing an anecdote about how her great-grandmother showed love and support for her grandfather and great-uncle.

"My great-grandmother said that if her two sons return from World War II safely that she would go on her knees from her house to the church on Thanksgiving. She was from Mexico, it's very traditional to do these promesas, these promises." 

Military associations like NGAUS ensure the families and the livelihoods of servicemembers remain a priority throughout the nation. Building strong bonds of community and friendship, the conference continues to guide and enrich the lives and careers of Guardsmen from the newest lieutenants to the most experienced of generals. 

"Every [conference] get's better and better," said Jean Dobaschi, from Hawaii. "NGAUS has played a very critical role in my life and in my husband's life. We've been able to make friends across the country; friends that will be lifetime friends forever."