Fort Hood united with its Central Texas neighbors Feb. 2 to welcome home the post’s newest Global War on Terrorism veterans in grand style during the Heroes’ Tribute at Hood Stadium.
Celebrating the accomplishments and courage of recently redeployed Soldiers and their families, the eight hour event featured carnival rides, free food, comedians and entertainment including Las 3 Divas, Harry Luge, Trick Pony, Chingo Bling, Wylde Bunch, Narwhal and Paul Wall, featuring Swishahouse.
Sponsored by dozens of local and national organizations including the Veteran’s of Foreign Wars, Time Warner Cable, AAFES, Pepsi, AUSA, DMWR and the cities of Belton, Temple, Harker Heights, Killeen, Lampasas, and Copperas Cove, the event showcased a partnership born from mutual support and care for America’s Soldiers and their families.
“We are fortunate … to be able to live in a community like Fort Hood with great Central Texas friends,” Maj. Gen. Jeff Hammond, 4th Infantry Division commander, said.
George Lisicki, the national senior vice commander and chief of the VFW, said he and his organization were very happy to be able to support a great event like the Heroes’ Tribute.
“We just want to make sure this generation of Soldiers is taken care of because our generation was not,” the Vietnam veteran said. “When we came home, we vowed that nothing like what happened to us would ever happen to American Soldiers ever again.”
For recently redeployed 4th Infantry Division Soldiers who are busy reorganizing and readying for future missions and the division’s upcoming move to Fort Carson, Colo., a day to relax and spend time with family and friends was greatly appreciated.
“I think this is great,” Spc. Vernon Blackwell said. “This is a good chance to be out, have some time off work and have fun with the family.”
Sgt. John Pyeatte said he made a point to bring his family to the festival despite the chilly weather because he knew how much work went into planning the event. Pyeatte’s family of five kept the cold at bay Friday, huddling together, munching on cotton candy and caramel apples in front of the main entertainment stage.
“This is very nice,” Pyeatte’s wife Kathy said as she marveled at the good turnout despite the cold weather.
“Everyone seems to be having fun and that’s great,” John Pyeatte said.
Hammond echoed his Soldier’s appraisal of the event.
“Look around – there is nothing but smiles on the faces,” the division commander said. “The Soldiers don’t expect anything like this.”
While he didn’t expect the great welcome home party he found at Hood Stadium Friday, Blackwell said it certainly felt good to see so many people out supporting the troops.
“This is great because it shows that the community still supports us,” Blackwell said. “It feels really good to have all these people come out and sacrifice their time and money to thank us for what we do.”
For VFW national commander and chief Gary Kurpius, whose organization donated several thousand dollars to make Friday’s tribute a reality, the ability to say thanks to American’s troops on such a grand scale was a great opportunity.
“One thing you always have to do is protect the warrior,” the Vietnam veteran said. “Our focus as an organization is to make sure that the active duty military and their families know that we are here to support them and we hope they saw that today.”