News: Honoring them with our presence
PITTSBURGH - Approximately 300 Western Pennsylvania Army Veteran’s, past and present, and their guests, gathered together at the Soldiers and Sailor’s Memorial Hall here, to enjoy an evening of military tradition and esprit des corps Feb. 22.
The Inaugural Western Pennsylvania Military Victory Ball, hosted by the Pittsburgh area’s 316th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), U.S. Army Reserve, embodied the motto of the hall with the theme of, “Honor them with your presence.”
The event was an opportunity to do more than just celebrate. The event was intended to honor all service under the motto, “Once a soldier, always a soldier,” and the ball was honored by the presence of three distinguished guest speakers; World War II Veteran, Thomas P. Hanlon, Operation Iraqi Freedom Veteran, Command Sgt. Maj. (Retired) Bart Womack and 316th ESC Commanding General, Brig. Gen. Bud R. Jameson, Jr.
Along with Maj. Gen. Peter Lennon, Commanding General of the 377th Theater Sustainment Command, various Western Pennsylvania Army Reserve units and guests from the American Legion Post 935, University of Pittsburgh’s Reserve Officers Training Corps, Pennsylvania Reserve Office Association, Military Affairs Council of Western Pa., and Pennsylvania Association of the United States helped to make this event an opportunity for veterans from WWII through present day to gather and share in the special bond of service.
The evening’s festivities included many unique historical and entertaining displays including several of the hall and museum displays that come to life. Costumed actors stood in front of display cases ranging from the Civil War through WWII and shared with the attendees, history of the time and about their persona’s service to the nation.
“Normally, when you go to a museum, you’re standing there, and you’re reading. When you have the exhibits come to life and speak to you and tell you their story, it draws you in,” said Master Sgt. Denise Underwood with the 316th ESC.
As educational and novel as the actors were, most notable was the presence of veterans and their sharing of stories describing the past, present and future.
The first speaker, a 90-year-old, Pittsburgh native and World War II veteran, Hanlon, served with the 88th Infantry Division from 1943 to 1945. He shared his experiences in Italy during the war as a communications wireman. His presence was a unique tie-back to the unit hosting the event as he is the grandfather of Capt. Andrew Steimer, the 316th ESC, Headquarters and Headquarters Company Commander.
On his grandfather speaking, Steimer said, “It meant a lot. He enjoys speaking, and I’ve taken a lot from him. My decision to join the Army was based on him and his stories; it was neat to see it come full circle.”
“Having a WWII veteran present held special meaning,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Sammy Sablan of the 77th Sustainment Brigade adding, “I felt a personal connection as my home island of Guam was held by Japan and liberated in World War II.”
The second speaker, Womack, talked about service and sacrifice. Womack talked about an incident of a Soldier in his ranks throwing hand grenades into the tents of sleeping officers and attacking unit personnel with small-arms fire. He shared a story of the fighting men and women of the Bastogne Brigade who responded bravely to the attack, who saved lives of their brothers and sisters, and also a story of the lives tragically lost by fratricide.
The keynote speaker of the evening, Brig. Gen. Bud R. Jameson Jr., spoke about how as members of this profession, we too often can overlook why we serve and the pride of wearing the uniform and events like this can help remind us of why we serve.
In the end, soldiers shared this evening of celebration with family members and honored guests as they reveled in this piece of tradition. 316th ESC 1st Sgt. Robert Frank said, “I had a great time. This was the first time for my wife to attend a ball, and she was very impressed. I think it was a great morale boost, and I hope we make this a tradition.”