News: Hiking for Heroes veteran Troy Yocum visits Fort Bliss, presents Christmas donations
Story by Spc. Valerie Lopez
Christmas arrived early for two 1st Armored Division families at Fort Bliss.
After nearly 15 million steps, Troy Yocum, Soldiers’ advocate and Iraq War veteran, was met by Fort Bliss Commanding General, Maj. Gen. Dana J.H. Pittard and El Paso Mayor John Cook.
Yocum, his wife Mareike, the general, the mayor and mayor’s grandson Jaydon walked a mile from Fort Bliss’ Cassidy Gate to the newly-opened Freedom Crossing shopping center and post exchange (PX).
Holiday shoppers and a vibrant lunch crowd showered Yocum with applause with attention as he entered the Freedom Crossing food court area while beating his trademark bass drum.
"I have been walking for eight months and two weeks, and have completed 4,138 miles to
reach Freedom Crossing here on Fort Bliss," said Yocum. "We have, up to now, raised $125,000 to give to military families in need.”
The beneficiaries of Yocum’s steps were Sgt. Sharita E. Gonzalez and Pfc. Triston Long—both served tours of duty in Iraq.
Each Soldier received a $5,000 donation.
Gonzalez, a motorpool logistics non-commissioned officer in charge, was joined at the ceremony by her husband Rene Gonzalez and four children—three with disabilities—Benicio, 6; twins Lamar and Sami, 5; and baby Reina, 11 mos.
"This is perfect timing," said Rene, a stay-at-home dad from Columbus, Ga. “Our truck broke down two days ago.”
Gonzalez, 32, a Bronx, N.Y. native, serves in the 125th Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Brigade, 1st Armored Division.
Her unit leadership recommended Gonzalez based on family needs and outstanding duty performance.
“[Gonzalez] is an exceptional leader,” exclaimed Lt. Col. Leon Plummer, commander of 125th Brigade Support Battalion. “She inspires her Soldiers toward self-development and is a ‘go-to’ person for our maintenance operations. She’s definitely among the top 10 percent of NCOs in her company.”
"To other Soldiers, don't give up, open up to your chain of command they're here to help us be better Soldiers and better people," said Gonzalez.
Long is a Bradley Fighting Vehicle (M3A3) driver from Conway, Ark., assigned to 2nd Squadron, 13th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade, 1st Armored Division. He returned from southern Iraq in April 2010.
Long’s misty-eyed wife, Tabitha, held their newborn baby, Alexandria, during the check presentation.
The Fort Bliss contributions were coordinated by Yocum through Soldiers’ Angels, a California-based non-profit organization, that raises funds to support U.S. servicemembers, veterans and their families.
"Soldiers at Fort Bliss have made tremendous contributions to operations in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Maj. Myles B. Caggins III, Fort Bliss spokesman. “We're thankful Soldiers’ Angels and Troy Yocum are recognizing our Soldiers during the holidays.”
Yocum and the Soldiers mingled with well-wishers at a luncheon sponsored by Buffalo Wild Wings at Freedom Crossing.
Yocum’s 16-month journey, “The Drum Hike,” commenced April 17 in Louisville, Ky. He aims to raise $5 million for military and their families in need, while hiking 7,000 miles cross country. Along the journey, he beats his shoulder-strapped drum and advocates for a National Day for Deployed Soldiers.
On this day, as Yocum gave to Soldiers, he gained support for his cause to give back to Soldiers.
Step-by-step, he gets closer to his goal.
Learn more about Fort Bliss and see more photos of Troy Yocum’s visit at: http://www.facebook.com/army.bliss
Track Troy Yocum’s hiking progress at http://drumhike.com
This work, Hiking for Heroes veteran Troy Yocum visits Fort Bliss, presents Christmas donations, by SGT Valerie Lopez, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.