BELTON — The Central Texas-Fort Hood Chapter of the Association of the United States Army awarded scholarships to 74 soldiers, veterans and family members Wednesday night during its final general membership meeting of the year.
“For AUSA, supporting the soldiers is really our foundation,” said Susan Jones, scholarship chair for the past six years.
Thanks to donations from the community, AUSA had $75,000 worth of scholarship money to distribute at the Bell County Expo Center. Of those, one scholarship was worth $2,000 and the rest worth $1,000. More than 150 applicants completed the application process and selections were based on an essay, grades, letters of recommendation and a list of awards.
In the past six years, Bobby Hoxworth, local chapter president and president of First National Bank-Texas, said the nonprofit has given about $395,000 to recipients.
“How big is that at a time we are coming off a rough economy for five years straight? Corporations in the community are still opening their pockets so soldiers and families can receive a higher education,” he said.
The educational goals of recipients range from a certificate in diesel maintenance and cosmetology licensing to bachelor’s and master’s degrees. This year’s recipients were a good mix of soldiers, spouses and children, Jones said.
“Professional development is key to any leader, whether in the motor pool or in the corps headquarters,” Jones said. “If you further education, you further your growth.”
Lindsay Hagstrom, a military spouse, plans to use the money to finish her bachelor’s degree in special education.
“It helps,” she said. “It’s a little bit less of worry about payment and eases the mind.”
The guest speaker for the evening was Maj. Gen. Anthony Ierardi, senior post commander and 1st Cavalry Division commander. While he spoke briefly on the Army’s Tuesday announcement to cut 2,900 positions from Fort Hood by 2017, he said he did not want to overshadow the scholarship recipients.
“I’m grateful for this generous investment in our soldiers,” he said. “You can see what AUSA has done in the lives of these individuals.”
As for the downsize, Ierardi emphasized the cut will “not be drastic” and at a 7 percent loss, is less than the total Army loss of 14 percent.
“The Army will manage it appropriately,” Ierardi said.
The inactivation of the division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team will likely happen within the next year, he said.