By Lauren Cabral

Fort Hood Herald

Former military members, military officials, history experts and area history buffs gathered Saturday to learn about military history and its place in today's society at the first Central Texas Military Symposium at the Central Texas College Nursing building.

The symposium was sponsored by the University of North Texas Military History Center and the Texas A&M University-Central Texas Department of History and Political Science.

"It shows you military history is alive and we should do our best to keep it alive," said attendee Fred Chavez, a former Air Force member and military child, and a self-proclaimed "big fan" of military history.

"There are some very bright and accomplished speakers that are here, so I'm having a great time."

The program allowed more than 25 professors, retired military members and historians to discuss and present papers on a variety of topics, such as military history in colleges, warfare in the 19th Century and personalities in history, with attendees.

Jerry W. Jones, assistant professor of history at TAMU-CT, said he and some UNT colleagues came up with the idea for the symposium in March.

"It's really something that happened through spontaneous combustion," he said, adding the symposium allowed attendees to learn from various subject experts, including those from UNT's Military History Center.

Michael Leggiere, deputy directory of the Military History Center, said the symposium not only taught attendees about military history, but gave students an opportunity to gain professional experience.

"For grad students particularly, it's a great opportunity to get experience under their belt in presenting at a formal conference," he said.

Leggiere said he hoped everyone took away something from the event, especially "the importance of using military history as a weather vane of where we will be going in our lives."

Richard McCaslin, chair of the UNT Department of History, gave the symposium's keynote address, titled "Border Conflict: Rip Ford and Confederate Nationalism in Texas." He said he and his colleagues were happy to be a part of the symposium.

"We got into this business for education and education occurs in different types of venues," he said. "This is one of the best ways we can reach out to the broader audience and teach what we teach."

Jones said he'd like to make the symposium an annual event, and hoped participants would realize it's important "not to just read history, but to do history," he said. "This is a great vehicle for that."

Leggiere added he'd like to see the symposium grow each year, and eventually bring in speakers from around the country.

"We're happy with how things have turned out so far," he said.

Jennifer Hetzel, a graduate of CTC's history program and an Army brat, said she came to support friend and presenter Jessy Scarlett, and because she thought it would be interesting.

"It was neat hearing from a bunch of different people," she said. "I think it was really impressive they were able to put this together so quickly and put something together like this in this area."

Alan Vangroll, a Killen resident and American history teacher at Shoemaker High School, said he'd heard about the symposium from Jones, his former professor.

"I came to get stories to tell," said Vangroll, who spent 22 years in the Army and said he tries to integrate military history into his curriculum whenever possible. "They remember the stories more than they do the hard facts."

Chavez, an employee at the CTC Planetarium and a member of the Copperas Cove Economic Development Foundation, said he enjoyed hearing about resources in the area during the morning's roundtable discussion, especially the future National Museum of Mounted Warfare and Soldier Center, which is still in the planning stages.

"It's been phenomenal, the things that I'm hearing," Chavez said.

Contact Lauren Cabral at or (254) 501-7476.

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