WWII Purple Heart Medals return home

Story by: Maj. Randall Stillinger

Posted: July 28, 2015

Maj. Randall Stillinger The Purple Heart Medal of Pfc. James T. Hull is embraced by his brother, retired Command Sgt. Maj. Cecil Hull during a ceremony on July 24, 2015. Pfc. Hull was killed in action during the 36th Infantry Division’s Salerno Beach Landing during World War II and was awarded the medal posthumously. After receiving his brother’s medal, Hull donated it to the 36th Infantry Division where it will be displayed on the wall of its headquarters building in Austin. (36th Infantry Division photo by Maj. Randall Stillinger)
Maj. Randall Stillinger
The Purple Heart Medal of Pfc. James T. Hull is embraced by his brother, retired Command Sgt. Maj. Cecil Hull during a ceremony on July 24, 2015. Pfc. Hull was killed in action during the 36th Infantry Division’s Salerno Beach Landing during World War II and was awarded the medal posthumously. After receiving his brother’s medal, Hull donated it to the 36th Infantry Division where it will be displayed on the wall of its headquarters building in Austin. (36th Infantry Division photo by Maj. Randall Stillinger)

SAN ANTONIO - The Purple Hearts of two fallen World War II Soldiers were returned during a patriotic ceremony on July 24 at a local health care and rehabilitation center.

The lost medals, which were recovered by the non-profit organization Purple Hearts Reunited (PHR), were presented to the family of one of the fallen, and then turned over to the commanding general of the 36th Infantry Division.

The first medal, which was posthumously awarded to Pfc. James Thomas Hull, was presented to retired Army Command Sgt. Maj. Cecil Hull, his last surviving brother and a recipient of the Purple Heart himself.

Pfc. Hull was born Jan. 24, 1919, to Rufus and Pocahontas “Honto” Johnson Hull in Moulton, Texas. He enlisted on November 25, 1940 and served with Company L, 3rd Battalion, 141st Infantry Regiment, 36th Infantry Division. 

After months of final preparation in North Africa, the 36th conducted the first amphibious assault by an American division in the European theater near Salerno, Italy on Sept. 9, 1943. The 3-141st sustained heavy casualties during the beach assault and landing. Among those killed in action that day was a young Pfc. Hull.

Reuniting the Purple Heart

Several years ago, a Highland, Calif. resident discovered the medal while cleaning out a home and contacted retired Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Paul C. Pfeifer, a member of the local American Legion post. In June the post reached out to PHR, and within a few hours they had located the Hull family in San Antonio.

Retired U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. Mitchell Bell and retired Air Force Lt. Col. Dennis Hensley, members of the PHR Valor Guard, traveled to San Antonio to present the medal during the emotional ceremony. Hull’s wife of 69 years, Sophie, spoke on behalf of her ailing husband.

“I can’t express my feelings for all that you’ve done,” she said. “This means so much to us and I know what it means to him. Thank you for all of this.”

To preserve the medal, the family donated it to the 36th Infantry Division of the Texas Army National Guard. Division Commander, Maj. Gen. Lester Simpson, received the medal from Hull and will display it at the division headquarters in Austin, where it will be honored and protected by current and future Soldiers. 

“I’m happy to be here to accept the medal that represents your brother’s service and sacrifice, and appreciate the work that Purple Hearts Reunited does to get these back to the families,” Simpson said. “We’re certainly happy to have these medals back home.” 

A Second Medal Comes Home

Bell also presented a second Purple Heart to Simpson during the ceremony at the Pecan Valley Rehabilitation and Health Care Center. The medal belonged to Pvt. Joseph Eugene "Gene" Bone, who was born August 19, 1920 in Taylor County, Georgia to Joseph Jackson and Eva Fannie Mott Bone. 

Pvt. Bone enlisted on April 28, 1943 and served with the 143rd Infantry Regiment, another unit within the 36th Infantry Division. He had survived the amphibious landing at Salerno and fought to capture the village of San Pietro despite strong enemy resistance and severe winter weather. He sacrificed his life on February 7, 1944 as the division attempted to secure a bridgehead across the Rapido River and is buried at the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery in Nettuno, Italy.

In January 2014, veteran Gariel Burchett contacted the Military Order of the Purple Heart after finding the medal while cleaning out his mother-in-law’s home. Since Pvt. Bone's family is no longer living, the Burchett family requested that the medal be delivered to an appropriate place where it can be viewed by others. The medal will be placed on the wall in the division headquarters next to the one belonging to Pfc. Hull along with stories that tell of their service and sacrifice.

“We’re working very hard to get our young Soldiers interested in the history and legacy of the division,” Simpson said. “Our headquarters is a great place for these Purple Hearts so they can see and read about those who have sacrificed and died in defense of our country.”

“These men joined the same unit and fought in the battle of Salerno. Pfc. Hull gave his life on that beach while attacking the Germans. Pvt. Bone survived another four months and died while fighting to cross a river,” Bell said. “They sacrificed in the final act of their military career. They died in service to their country.”

Purple Hearts Reunited

Purple Hearts Reunited was created in 2012 by Army Capt. Zachariah Fike, who was wounded during combat in Afghanistan. The non-profit organization, which relies on grants and donations to continue the mission, has returned over 150 lost or stolen medals and artifacts to family members or museums. The return of these two medals was sponsored by a grant from the Military Order of the Purple Heart Service Foundation. Framing of the medals was generously donated by Village Frame Shoppe & Gallery in St. Albans, Vermont.

The return of these medals actually makes a total of three 36th Infantry Division Purple Hearts that have been delivered within a week. The medal belonging to Pvt. Berlin E. Small was also returned to his family in Brainbridge Island, Wash.

“The return of three medals to the same division within a week is definitely historic from a PHR perspective. I would like to think that these guys have been orchestrating these efforts together from up above,” Fike said. “I truly appreciate everyone's effort on this project.”

Operation Lone Star 2015 - Dental Care

Dental Care -- Staff Sgt. Jose Mendoza, Texas Medical Command, Texas Army National Guard and Lt. Col. James Fancher, Medical Brigade, Texas State Guard, work on a dental patient at Operation Lone Star in Mission, Texas, July 28, 2015. OLS is an annual training event for Texas Military Forces to work with state and local partners to train for disaster response. The dental service soldiers are part of a team of dentists, dental assistants and dental students who served more than 200 local community members each day at Palmview High School. (Texas State Guard photo by Col. Robert Morecook/Released)
Dental Care -- Staff Sgt. Jose Mendoza, Texas Medical Command, Texas Army National Guard and Lt. Col. James Fancher, Medical Brigade, Texas State Guard, work on a dental patient at Operation Lone Star in Mission, Texas, July 28, 2015. OLS is an annual training event for Texas Military Forces to work with state and local partners to train for disaster response. The dental service soldiers are part of a team of dentists, dental assistants and dental students who served more than 200 local community members each day at Palmview High School. (Texas State Guard photo by Col. Robert Morecook/Released)

 

TAG Talks: Lt. Col. John C. Crawson

John C. Crawson speaks about how the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review resulted in the Secretary of Defense making a decision to restructure the military Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear (CBRN) response.TAG Talks are a series of unique presentations put together by students in The Adjutant General's Executive Leadership Development Program offering the perspective of future Senior leaders of the Texas Military Forces.

Houston Astros host deploying Signal guardsmen

Story by:  Sgt. Elizabeth Peña
 
 Posted: July 19, 2015

Sgt. Elizabeth Peña Warrant Officer Audrey M. Foushee speaks during the deployment ceremony for the Texas National Guard's 136th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, hosted by the Houston Astros, at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas, July 18, 2015. This marks the first time that the Texas National Guard has been supported by a Major League Association for a mobilization event. (Texas Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Elizabeth Pena/Released)
Sgt. Elizabeth Peña
Warrant Officer Audrey M. Foushee speaks during the deployment ceremony for the Texas National Guard's 136th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, hosted by the Houston Astros, at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas, July 18, 2015. This marks the first time that the Texas National Guard has been supported by a Major League Association for a mobilization event. (Texas Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Elizabeth Pena/Released)

HOUSTON — Friends and family of the Texas National Guard’s 136th Expeditionary Signal Battalion gathered at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas, July 18, 2015, to give their final blessings as the unit prepares to depart for Kuwait and surrounding areas for a nine-month deployment. The farewell ceremony, hosted by the Houston Astros, took place just before game two of their Lone Star Series against the Texas Rangers.

“This is the first time the Texas National Guard has been sponsored by a Major League association,” said Lt. Col. Tanya Trout, commander of the 136th ESB. “We have over a third of our Soldiers that have never been deployed before, so to be able to send them off like this is tremendous.”

The 136th ESB is a Houston-based signal battalion that belongs to Joint Task Force 136 (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade), headquartered in Round Rock, Texas. During their deployment, the unit will be responsible for providing voice and network capabilities to other military assets across seven countries, including Kuwait, Jordan, The United Arab Eremites, and Egypt. 

The battalion is made up of approximately 300 Soldiers from the Texas and Alabama National Guards and will fall under the regular Army’s 160th Strategic Signal Brigade while overseas.

The ceremony featured the casing of the battalion colors, an Army tradition that is used to demonstrate an organization moving to a new theater of operations. The colors, which represent the 136th ESB’s mission and lineage, are carried wherever the unit goes and are kept safe by the senior enlisted member. In this case, that responsibility falls to the battalion command sergeant major, Command Sgt. Maj. Jeffrey Collins. 

Although this is the first deployment for the 136th ESB, many of the Soldiers are experienced combat veterans. 

“My biggest challenge is being back and forth from my son,” said Sgt. Darin Goodwin of C Company, 136th ESB. “He’s about a year old so he is kind of understanding but kind of upset that daddy keeps leaving and coming back. My wife is military so we have a good understanding of everything. This is what I love. It’s what we do.”

The unit recently completed training at Camp Swift, Texas, where they refreshed their basic Soldier fundamentals including land navigation, combat drills, and convoy operations. 

“Over the last few weeks when we did the pre-mobilization training we really got to bond on a more day to day, 24/7 basis, and I’m inspired by all of them,” said Trout. “Each and every individual sacrifice they make, how quick to learn and how motivated as you can see today.”

Next is the last stage of their training at Fort Hood, Texas, which focuses on their signal mission and ensures they have the latest equipment and skills for the modern battlefield. 

“We are always ready to be on the move, it’s a part of our training,” said Spc. Raven Lewis, a logistics coordinator for the 136th ESB. “We make sure that we remain proactive in case we have to go support someone else.”

This ceremony gives Soldiers one last opportunity to give their give their loved ones final hugs and kisses before stepping on the plane for the middle east.

“It’s pretty cool to have the support from back home,” said Lewis. “Not only do you have your family with you but you have your support from people that live in the general area that want to see you return safely with the troops.”

Texas Military Department Names Human Resources Director

Ms. Shelia B. Taylor has been selected to serve as the State Human Resources Director for the Texas Military DepartmentAUSTIN, Texas (July 1, 2015) – Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, The Adjutant General of Texas is pleased to announce that Ms. Shelia B. Taylor has been selected to serve as the State Human Resources Director for the Texas Military Department, effective April 1, 2015.

“I consider it an honor and a privilege to have been selected as the new State Director of Human Resources,” said Taylor. “I look forward to continued service in my new role as part of the TMD team; and--with the help and support of dedicated staff- I will do my best to maintain the vote of confidence indicated by giving me this opportunity.”

Taylor joined the agency in March 2011 as Legal Counsel. Prior to that she served as the Deputy Chief and Chief Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) for the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH) (gubernatorial appointment by former Governors George W. Bush and Rick Perry), Legal Counsel with the Disaster Recovery Division at the Texas Department of Rural Affairs, Administrative Law Judge and Assistant Director of Hearings for the Public Utility Commission of Texas, and Assistant District Attorney for Travis County District Attorney's Office.

As the Human Resources Director, her role will involve the management, supervision, coordination and oversight of all aspects of human resources activities, including, but not limited to: personnel administration (recruitment, selection, classification, performance management; staff development, employee benefits; and employee relations, etc.); ensuring compliance with applicable state and federal laws and policies, as well as agency policies. Additionally, she will provide direction, guidance, and assistance to agency staff and supervisors on issues, rules, and regulations related to human resources; develop policies and procedures and other guidance; assist in the coordination and management of the agency's defense on administrative actions and litigation such as proceedings before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and unemployment claims before the Texas Workforce Commission. Taylor will also review the results of special investigations, internal audits, research studies and forecasts, to provide direction and guidance; maintain a working knowledge of changes in employment law and legislation that affect (or may potentially impact) agency operations.

Taylor received a Bachelor of Applied Sciences in Criminal Justice from Southern Methodist University and a Doctor of Jurisprudence from The University of Texas at Austin School of Law. She has been licensed by the State Bar of Texas since October 1981. She is the recipient of the Victor J. Rosskopf Award, awarded by the National Association of the Administrative Law Judiciary for significant contributions made in the field of administrative adjudication.

Texas Signal Guardsmen prepare for deployment

Story by: Master Sgt. Daniel Griego

Posted: July 2, 2015

 Master Sgt. Daniel Griego Soldiers with the Texas National Guard's 136th Expeditionary Signal Battalion conduct pre-mobilization training June 29 at Camp Swift in Bastrop, Texas. This training, which includes weapons familiarization, chemical training, land navigation, and other basic warrior skills, is in preparation for the unit's upcoming deployment to Kuwait and surrounding areas. The Houston-based outfit, part of Joint Task Force 136 (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade), trained from June 22 through July 11 at Camp Swift before conducting its farewell ceremony in Houston. (Photo by Master Sgt. Daniel Griego/Released)
Master Sgt. Daniel Griego
Soldiers with the Texas National Guard's 136th Expeditionary Signal Battalion conduct pre-mobilization training June 29 at Camp Swift in Bastrop, Texas. This training, which includes weapons familiarization, chemical training, land navigation, and other basic warrior skills, is in preparation for the unit's upcoming deployment to Kuwait and surrounding areas. The Houston-based outfit, part of Joint Task Force 136 (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade), trained from June 22 through July 11 at Camp Swift before conducting its farewell ceremony in Houston. (Photo by Master Sgt. Daniel Griego/Released)

CAMP SWIFT, Texas – For three weeks from June 21 to July 11, more than 200 men and women of the Texas Army National Guard’s 136th Expeditionary Signal Battalion conduct pre-mobilization training at Camp Swift in Bastrop, Texas. This training, which focuses on basic warrior skills common to all Soldiers, prepares the troops for their upcoming deployment to Kuwait and surrounding countries.

“It’s good to have a foundation; it’s good to sharpen up all our skills,” said Spc. Dilan Goodwin, a network operator with C Company, 136th ESB. “You never know when you’re going to need it in combat.”

This training period is the first of two preparatory rounds for the battalion, with the second happening later this month at Fort Hood where they’ll train on their signal mission. Once at Fort Hood, the headquarters company and C Company will be joined by A Company from the Alabama National Guard. 

“The ESB is a communications battalion, so what we’re going to be doing is providing backbone communications,” said Chief Warrant Officer Wade Vrtis, a network technician with HHC, 136th ESB. “We’re also going to be running help desks and technical control facilities.”

The organization’s primary objective overseas will be to provide network and voice capabilities to the main elements located throughout seven countries, including Kuwait, Jordan, The United Arab Emirates, and Egypt. 

“It’s a very big mission, very important,” said Vrtis. “It feels like we have something to give and something to provide.”

The training here at Camp Swift focuses on the Soldiers’ traditional Army skills, from weapons familiarization and land navigation to react to contact drills and decontamination.

“The training that we have is very important in case things happen out of your control,” said Vrtis. “But mostly the mission is going to be communication mission, and these guys are pretty good when it comes to communications.”

This will be the first deployment for the signal battalion, which has been around for about six years and falls under the Texas National Guard’s Joint Task Force 136 (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade). For the deployment, the battalion will fall under the 160th Strategic Signal Brigade, the outfit responsible for providing the United States Central Command and Third United State Army with enterprise communications capabilities. 

“We’re also expeditionary, so that means that we’re not afraid to be in a tactical environment,” said 1st Lt. Jouhee Han, the 136th ESB Battle Captain. “So we can set up just about anywhere.”

The Texas Guardsmen will serve for approximately nine months overseas for this deployment. 

“I’m really honored to work with the Soldiers I’m working with,” said Han, “and I’m really honored to be a part of the battalion. I feel that this mission is very important.”

The farewell ceremony for the 136th Expeditionary Signal Battalion will take place July 18th at Houston’s Minute Maid Park before the Houston Astros square off against the Texas Rangers. This event marks the first time for a deployment ceremony in Texas to take place at a major sporting event.

19th Regiment Trains for Disaster Relief in East Texas

Story  by: Capt. Esperanza Meza

Posted: July 2, 2015

Annual Training commenced for the Dallas-based 19th Civil Affairs Regiment
Texas State Guard 19th Regiment soldiers, Pvt. David Bridgwater, Pvt. John Leveridge and Pfc. Levi Sourjohn, evacuate an injured role player, a boy scout from Troop 1857, Texas Skies District, Circle Ten Council, Boy Scouts of America, assisted by  Steve Gilbert, District Training Chairman, during a Ground Search and Recovery exercise in Ben Wheeler, Texas, June 5, 2015. Ground search and rescue is a Texas State Guard mission essential service that assists local authorities during an emergency. (Texas State Guard photo by Capt. Esperanza Meza/Released)  

CANTON, Texas - Annual Training commenced for the Dallas-based 19th Civil Affairs Regiment, Texas State Guard, as troops deployed to various locations in Van Zandt and Upshur counties to test and strengthen their emergency response capabilities, June 4-7, 2015.

Treating boy scout
Staff Sgt. John Legg, Texas State Guard 19th Regiment, conducts a medical review of an injured role player, Stephen Gilbert, from Troop 1857, Texas Skies District, Circle Ten Council, Boy Scouts of America, during a ground search and recovery exercise in Ben Wheeler, Texas, June 5, 2015. Texas State Guard soldiers are trained to provide combat life-saving first aid to assist victims during an emergency. (Texas State Guard photo by Capt. Esperanza Meza/Released)

The training scenario for the exercise involved a Category 4 hurricane making landfall along the Texas Gulf Coast spawning severe weather with widespread flooding and tornadoes. The exercise tested the regiment’s leadership and staff at every level, strengthening their overall capability during an emergency. The scenario challenged troops to exercise their response capabilities in communications, mass care, shelter management, evacuee tracking, and search and rescue.

Local churches and high schools across Van Zandt County were transformed into mass care shelters with emergency tracking network stations and medical treatment stations for special needs patients. 

“We were very happy to be here with the Texas State Guard and being part of the community that helps our residents,” said Reverend Wade Harman of The United Methodist Church, Canton, Texas. "It is important to see our Texas State Guard at work."

"I am impressed by the professionalism and high operating tempo of the 19th Regiment,” stated Brig. Gen. Howard Palmer, Army Component Commander, Texas State Guard. “I am grateful by the level of community response and participation.  This cooperative training benefits everyone."

Pvt. Jason Harber, a new enlistee who swore into the Guard at annual training commented that "the 19th Regiment is professional, well-organized, friendly, and helpful in getting me up to speed. This was a good decision to join.”

The exercise also included Ground Search and Recovery in Ben Wheeler, Texas, which tested soldiers' abilities in land navigation, communication, first aid, and search methods. Assisting the regiment, six Texas Skies District Boy Scouts from Van Zandt County played the part of a lost campers in the path of a tornado.  Three six-man search teams from the regiment searched the area to locate victims, apply first aid as required and evacuate them. Champion Emergency Support supported the exercise with paramedics and an ambulance and Flight for Life, based in Palestine, Texas, simulated patient recovery with an emergency medical helicopter.

"Annual Training provided unique challenges for command and control. Our unit force packages were stretched to make numerous decisions within a framework of rapidly changing locations and conditions. They accomplished the mission,” said Lt. Col. Wendell Sadler, 19th Regiment operations officer.

"This is an outstanding training opportunity to work with local authorities," stated Maj. Gen. Gerald "Jake" Betty, Commanding General, Texas State Guard.  "As normal, our soldiers are doing an outstanding job.  I am honored and humbled to visit with the dedicated soldiers of the Texas State Guard."

Following completion of the hurricane scenario, troops conducted a confidence exercise at Alert Academy, led by Col. Richard Tanner, commanding officer, Alert Academy and academy training instructors, in Big Sandy, Texas. The exercise started with an arduous land navigation exercise with a dismounted cross country movement followed by advanced ground search and rescue training. Troops were physically and mentally focused as they approached obstacles, including a rappelling tower, rock climbing wall, and a one-rope river crossing exercise.

Pvt. Brooke Jones, another recent enlistee, stated that she "thoroughly enjoyed the experiences with the rappelling tower and the water crossing activity. Both exercises allowed me to push myself, build my confidence, instill a sense of trust and foster camaraderie with my teammates, who also provided plenty of encouragement along the way. I enjoyed the rappelling so much I opted to descend inverted, along with Pfc. Michael Roppolo. I am confident that my experiences with both exercises will make me a more effective soldier so that I may be able to better serve my fellow Texans." 

During the closing ceremony at the Van Zandt County Veterans Memorial, the 19th Regiment thanked Van Zandt county officials and residents for supporting the regiment's annual training, at Canton, Texas, June 7, 2015.   Attending the ceremony were Van Zandt County Judge Don Kirkpatrick, Van Zandt County Sheriff’s Department, Van Zandt County Fire Marshal and Emergency Management Coordinator Chuck Allen, the Van Zandt Precinct Watch, Red Cross, Circle Ten Council Boy Scouts and Cub Scout Pack 378, local church pastors, municipal fire and police, and representatives from the Wills Point, Texas, and Martin Mills, Texas, independent school districts.  

The Texas State Guard provides support to local authorities during a disaster or emergency such as hurricanes, wildfires, and flooding.  The Texas State Guard also conducts the state's largest annual humanitarian medical mission, Operation Lone Star, in the Rio Grande Valley, Texas.