Spc. Rayson Coppedge (front), a logistical specialist, dines with co-workers, all from the 15th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas, in the Rockin' Rodeo Party Pavillion, at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, Feb. 29, 2012. Photo by Army Sgt. Quentin Johnson
| ||HOUSTON, TX (3/4/2012) – More than 5,500 members of the Armed Forces were in attendance for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Armed Forces Appreciation Day at Reliant Park, Feb. 29, 2012.|
Among the service members were approximately 200 soldiers and family members from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, “Black Jack,” 1st Cavalry Division, who enjoyed the day participating in numerous exhibits, a carnival, horse show, the rodeo and a Kid Rock concert.
The appreciation day is an annual event at the rodeo, with this year being the fifth, that allows service members in uniform and their families free admission to the park, explained Robin Young-Ellis, chairman of the Armed Forces Association Committee.
Young-Ellis said she started the committee to recognize military members and their families for all they do.
“It is about honoring the service members and their family members for their hard work and
|sacrifice,” said Young-Ellis, whose husband is a Marine.|
“This is a day to give thanks, give the service members a break from their daily routine and give back to the military,” added Paul Lehnhoff, vice president of the HLSR. “It is also an opportunity for the people of Houston to express their gratitude.”
In addition to free admission, all participants were provided with a complimentary barbecue meal and assorted beverages, stated Lehnhoff. Each military member was given a booklet containing discount and free game coupons to be used throughout the park.
All amenities for the participants were made possible through private donations raised throughout the year, and support from local food vendors, he added.
“AFAC and HLRS have raised $250,00 this year to support this day and each year it continues to grow,” stated Lehnhoff.
“Monetary support such as this came easy because the committee members and donors love and appreciate everything you (service members) do for our country,” said Young-Ellis.
Appreciation also came from the participants themselves, as soldiers and their families were surprised with the sheer magnitude of the event.
“I was expecting just a rodeo, but I am very impressed by all that is offered here and the amount of troops in attendance,” explained Spc. Rayson Coppedge, about his first time attending a rodeo.
All the events were equally great and the food was fantastic, added Coppedge, a logistical specialist with Company A., 15th Brigade Support Battalion, Black Jack. He said he was happy to have a day off from normal duty, “I enjoyed doing something new.”
Familiar with rodeos, Pvt. 1st Class Braxton Forbes and wife, Rebecca, both from Timberon, N.M., said they have been to almost 24 rodeos between them but never one this grand.
“Pig races, a petting zoo, a carnival and a Kid Rock concert, I couldn't be more appreciative of the folks from AFAC and HLSR for making this day happen,” said Braxton, a cavalry scout with Troop B, 4th Squadron, 9th U.S. Cav. Regt., Black Jack.
Being family oriented was an added benefit, he explained. It helps build cohesion between the spouses and families within our unit.
“The support from the command to allow our soldiers to spend time with their families away from work is nice,” said Rebecca. “This day shows that Fort Hood leadership realizes that we (families and soldiers) need quality time.”
He doesn't have a spouse or child, but Spc. Andrew Caldwell from Hersey, Pa., said it was “awesome.” He has been to more than 12 rodeos but none have compared to this one.
“I was expecting a rodeo but not a kids center, carnival, exhibits and concert,” explained Caldwell, a cavalry scout with Troop B, 4th Sqdn., 9th U.S. Cav. Regt.
With exceeded expectations came much appreciation and thanks from the service members and their families.
“I am thankful for organizations like AFAC and HLSR, they give me a sense of peace. I know people support us and are there for me when he is deployed,” added Rebecca.
As the sun began to set AFAC closed up for the evening and with a smile Young-Ellis spoke some words of gratefulness to service members in attendance.
“I hope each and every one of you continue to have a great time tonight. On behalf of the committee, the HLRS and citizens of Houston, we are blessed to be able to honor you for your dedication and sacrifice to the country,” she said. “You have no idea how much you service members mean to us, thank you.”
All 16 photos of troops and their families enjoying the Houston Rodeo are in frame below.
By Army Sgt. Quentin Johnson
2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division Public Affairs
Provided through DVIDS
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