News: Soldiers battle for applause at military open house
Story by Spc. Praxedis Pineda
CAMP MABRY, Texas – The earth quaked with a thunderous boom from the cannon as the tank rumbled through the Rhone Valley. The air was black with explosions as a fighter plane poured bombs over the battlefield. German soldiers scattered as the 36th Infantry Division of Texas broke through enemy lines.
The smoke dissipated and the battlefield stood still.
A soldier stepped out of the trenches and whispered, "We won." The others soldiers soon joined him. "We won, we won," they cried. The crowd stood up and celebrated their victory with roaring applause.
The reenactment of the historic World War II Battle of Montelimar was part of the 7th Annual Texas Military Forces Open House featuring the American Heroes Air Show at Camp Mabry, Austin, Texas, April 21, 2012. More than 15 thousand service members, emergency responders and families had the chance to participate in a two-day celebration that included static displays, living history camps, helicopter demonstrations and the historic battle reenactment.
The celebration "gives people the opportunity to say thank you to the soldiers and airmen that are currently serving," said Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, The Adjutant General of Texas. "They all have given us the opportunity to be here this Saturday on a perfect weather day and celebrate our freedoms."
The event began with the opening ceremony, which commemorated a fallen police officer. The audience stood in reverence, as the Austin Police Pipe and Drum Corp played Amazing Graze in remembrance of Officer Jaime Padron, who died in the line of duty earlier this month. Other static displays memorialized fallen service members.
Many people searched for the names of deceased relatives on the Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall.
Not only do "we see how many people were involved in this war, but we see how many people were lost," said Vietnam Veteran Danny McDaniel. The war "was pretty devastating, but I hope this is something for people to take and realize that this is part of history."
Others looked for the names of men and women who died in a much more recent mission.
"You will see the six thousand plus gold dog tags with the name of every casualty of Iraq and Afghanistan," said Vietnam veteran Donald Allen, CEO of American Veterans Fallen Tribute. "Every one of those names up there was a living and breathing person that had a family."
Although service members once raised their right hand to serve this country, many have now raised that same hand to become American citizens. A naturalization ceremony was held in front of the Vietnam Wall, Saturday, April 21, for 23 people from 19 different countries.
"Think about somebody that will fight and die and serve in a country where they can't even vote," said Allen. "We have to be proud of them."
After the ceremony, people had the opportunity to enjoy all the other attractions. Many organizations sold homemade food and beverages. Other volunteers, dressed in historic military attire, told stories about "the war" from their perspective. Kids' eyes lit up when they had the chance to step into a Chinook helicopter and spectators stood in rapt attention during a air assault demonstration by members of the 5th Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group.
The team was able to stop a fast moving enemy vehicle, swiftly slide down a rope from a hovering helicopter, and capture the insurgents in less than 15 minutes. To many, it was a reminder of the extreme situations many service members endure during deployments.
"There are people in the United States that put on a uniform in the morning, and they don't know if they will be home for dinner that night," said Allen. "This is not some kind of a video game, it's for real."
To conclude the event, the Texas Military Forces Museum helped organize a re-enactment of the Battle of Montelimar, a significant moment in the history of the 36th Infantry Division.
The soldiers fought using vintage weapons of the 1940's era, a fighter plane and two tanks that "destroyed" each other as part of the reenactment.
"We're not trying to glorify war, but trying to teach the sacrifice that our men did go through and what did happen," said re-enactor Gill Eastland. "This teaches history in a way they can understand, in way they can see, smell and hear.
What began as Muster day, a day when all Texas Guardsmen met at Camp Mabry to reaffirm their enlistment, has evolved to a gathering of local community members and Texas military forces.
"It's a celebration of our American heroes," said Nichols "We honor those who came… and we enjoy the freedom they gave us."