Just being there to experience a full day of honoring our United States Armed Forces and their family members was quite humbling. Indeed the 2016 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Committee members went above and beyond the call in showing their sincere appreciation for the tremendous sacrifice of our country’s brave men and women in uniform.
Armed Forces Appreciation Day at NRG Park on the second day of the greatest Livestock and Rodeo show on the planet was blessed with great weather and a tremendous turnout. The Army, Air Force, Marine Corp, Navy, and Coast Guard were all well represented. The Armed Forces Appreciation Day sponsor for the third consecutive year was BHP Billiton, and they truly spared no expense in honoring our military.
As the BHP Billiton spokesperson noted, “we at BHP Billiton are dedicated to enriching the vibrant, innovative places we call home. Our participation in Armed Forces Appreciation Day allows us to continue that tradition by honoring the men and women who give so much for our city, our country and our freedom. We wish everyone a safe and fun-filled day. You’ve earned it!”
In addition to military personnel from across the greater Houston area participating in the full-day of festivities, over 44 bus-loads of service members traveled from Fort Hood, Texas accompanied by buses from Fort Polk, Louisiana and Camp Mabry out of Austin, Texas. In total, an estimated 5,000 active duty service members and their families came through the NRG Park gates. They were joined by over 200 Wounded Veterans and family members; over 50 of the “Greatest Generation” WWII Veterans with family; and, some 50 plus “Gold Star” Family members (those whose spouses and loved ones paid the ultimate sacrifice for love of country).
There were numerous high points experienced throughout the day. The U.S. Marine Corp band put on a masterful display of musical precision to the delight of a very appreciative and massive crowd. Military members and their families got the unique opportunty to meet Ken Pridgeon the famous “Portrait of a Warrior” artist. Pridgeon has made it his mission to paint a portrait of every service member killed in action (KIA) while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan from the state of Texas. To date he has painted 200 of 609 fallen Texan warriors. Arguably the most memorable event took place late in the afternoon just before dusk and involved the swearing in of some 700 young patriots who are now preparing for the next chapter in their lives as privates, airmen /airwomen and seamen / seawomen.