Gatesville Chamber of Commerce

First Army Division West soldiers fill their plates with catfish, hushpuppies and sides at the Gatesville Chamber of Commerce’s fifth annual Military Appreciation Fish Fry on Feb. 22 at the Coryell County Activities Complex in Gatesville.

U.S. Army/Staff Sgt. Tony Foster

GATESVILLE — The Gatesville Chamber of Commerce hosted its fifth annual Military Appreciation Fish Fry at the Coryell County Activities Complex on Feb. 22.

The city launched the event to show appreciation to soldiers, veterans and their families from Fort Hood.

“Tonight we all gathered the military, along with our city and county officials, to show how much we appreciate the soldiers,” said Santanna Bay, Gatesville Chamber president. “They give everything and make so many sacrifices for us, so today was our collective way of saying, ‘Thank you.’”

The first fish fry was first conducted after the November 2009 shooting at Fort Hood.

After the shooting, Gatesville residents provided aid to the soldiers and families of Fort Hood in many ways, including hosting a dinner that evolved into the annual Military Appreciation Fish Fry.

“I love this,” said 1st Sgt. Anthony Copenhaver, of the 479th Field Artillery Brigade’s Headquarters and Headquarters Battery. “This is the second year I’ve been able to attend, and it’s always a warm welcome here in Gatesville.”

The event began with a social hour, during which civilians and military personnel mingled. Boy Scout Troop 272 presented the national colors, and the Rev. Buddy Wheat, a retired Army chaplain, gave the invocation.

Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, III Corps and Fort Hood commander, addressed the crowd with words of appreciation on behalf of Fort Hood.

“It takes a community to wrap its arms around and love soldiers,” Milley said. “We need it, we love it and we want some more of it, and we appreciate Gatesville’s effort in that regard.”

Members of the Gatesville Volunteer Fire Department prepared the fish, hushpuppies and sides enjoyed by about 300 attendees.

“Gatesville is our partner community, and it’s always good to come and (have) fellowship with them,” said First Army Division West Command Sgt. Maj. Ronald Orosz. “The food was outstanding. You can’t beat good-old Texas cooking.”

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