By Lynette Sowell
In the skies above SC River Ranch in Oakalla Saturday evening, members of the Liberty Jump Team leaped from a World War II-era C-47 to kick off the Homecoming For Heroes II gala, hosted by the Mounted Warfare Foundation.
The ranch’s barn was filled with tables as several hundred turned out to show their support for the fundraiser which pulled in more than $35,000 in auction sales alone, which will go toward phase I construction of the future Mounted Warfare Museum.
Fort Hood has donated 68 acres for the museum, with a tentative ground breaking date of 2019. The projected cost for phase I is around $37.7 million. Prior to Saturday night, approximately $18.1 million has been raised via fundraisers and donations.
The evening featured a dinner, live and silent auction, and a dance. Sponsorship tables had a special dinner guest, including individuals like NCAA coaches and local dignitaries such as Texas Commissioner of Agriculture Sid Miller, Texas Representatives Charles “Doc” Anderson and Jimmy Don Aycock, along with Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Mike Thornton. Another special guest was retired General Robert Shoemaker.
Eula “Sis” Beck was honored with an inaugural award bestowed on her Saturday night by the Mounted Warfare Foundation.
The Pierre de Wet Patriotism Award was created in memory of MWF member and ardent supporter Pierre de Wet, of Tyler, Texas, who passed away in January 2016.
Bob Crouch, vice president of the MWF, said the award is to recognize an individual who displays a history of selfless service and making the community a better place.
Crouch spoke to the crowd of Beck’s service record to the military community which began not long after she graduated from Killeen High School shortly before WWII.
Crouch also noted that the main gate at Fort Hood was named after her late husband, Bernie Beck, in 2009.
Musical guest for the evening was Pat Waters and the Chainlink Band, who also gave a copy of Waters’ newest CD “Crazy That Way” to each table.
Five of the tables had been purchased by sponsors, who then donated the tickets to seat active duty soldiers from the First Cavalry Division and the 13th Sustainment Command.
Crouch lauded several of the title sponsors, with Solutions One Industries, a Killeen defense contractor, donating $5,000 to the event; Bell Helicopter also donating $5,000 as well, and Vestry Corporation making a $2,500 donation. Representatives from the Copperas Cove, Harker Heights and Killeen #1 H-E-B stores were present at the dinner, with H-E-B donating $150,000 to be paid out over three years toward the museum. The stores will be starting a “tear-off’ campaign in which customers will be able to make donations at the registers.
Shortly after the barbecue meal, the live auction began. Some of the items going for high dollars included an autographed photo of Ronald Reagan, which sold for $3,000, followed by a Mozambique game hunt going for $3,100. A pair of sidelines game tickets to a Dallas Cowboys game went for $3,000, a pair of sidelines tickets to a Baylor football home game versus Rice University sold for $1,500, a boxing glove signed by Muhammed Ali brought in $1,300 and a Star Wars poster signed by a cast member from each of the seven films raised $900 for the foundation.
Pagel and Sons Jewelers donated a 0.5 carat diamond which was part of a ticket drawing. For a $50 donation, donors received a glass of champagne along with a 0.5 carat cubic zirconia and a ticket which entered the donor in a drawing for the $2,000 diamond. Jason Hancock of Belton won that prize.
Other items part of the silent auction included four one-day Disneyland park hopper tickets; Texas Rangers tickets; Sea World San Antonio tickets; balloon rides for one, two, and four people; four reserved seat tickets to the Round Rock Express; Apollo 11 signed photo; George H.W. Bush signed photo; an American Idol photo signed by the show’s judges; four Southwest Airlines domestic flight tickets; iFly Austin voucher for one person/two flights; 10 Schlitterbahn tickets; a Teri’s Travel five-day Caribbean cruise.
The evening was made possible via the help of sponsors, as well as a gala committee made up of locals from central Texas and Covites like Crouch, Jack Welch, Gary Welch, Jack and Larissa Smith, Sherry Hoffpauir, Joe Lombardi and David Morris.
Once constructed, the National Mounted Warfare Museum will be a multi-sensory, multi-media experiential museum honoring the US Army’s mounted warriors and Fort Hood, Texas.
It will be an educational destination for the region’s schools, as well as civilian patriots and the millions of veterans who passed through Fort Hood and want to share their experience with their loved ones. For more information about the MWF, go to www.nmwfoundation.org.