By Audrey Spencer
The Cove Herald
Chamber and Military Affairs Committee members socialized with III Corps at a dinner in the Civic Center last Thursday.
The Copperas Cove Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau and its Military Affairs Committee host "a big unit at Fort Hood for dinner" eight times a year, said Marty Smith, president of the chamber.
"What makes ours so special," said Smith of the chamber's dinners, "is that it's one-on-one. We meet the guests at the door, and each person or couple has a host."
As guests entered the center, they were signed in and given a name tag that included the name of their host, a member of the Military Affairs Committee who sits with them through the dinner and introduces them to other people, to encourage networking and socializing.
"We're the only Military Affairs Committee that does it like that," said Smith of other local committees. "It's always just worked out beautifully."
The doors opened at 6 p.m. and the Copperas Cove High School JROTC presented the colors just after 7 p.m. Mark Peterson, chairman of the Military Affairs Committee, led everyone in the pledge of allegiance.
Peterson then gave a brief history of the tradition of hosting support dinners and released the crowd to get a dinner of "the best steak you've had in the region."
A committee cooked steaks to different levels of doneness outside the center, while other committees provided baked potatoes, salad, drinks and tended an open bar. Ivor McKay, a retired lieutenant colonel, provided squares of shortbread for dessert, as he has for as long as the dinners have been, for more than 50 years, said Smith.
After dinner, Peterson introduced special guests. Among them were: Copperas Cove Mayor John Hull and his wife, Shirley, County Judge John Firth, City Councilman Ken Smith, Mayor Pro Tem Frank Sefrood, City Manager Andrea Gardner, Polo Enriquez from the Economic Development Corporation and school district representatives.
The guest speaker, Brig. Gen. Dean J. Milner, commented on the hosting and experience of the dinner, as well as his first experiences in the city in 1996.
"I always wanted to come back to this place, it was a great experience," said Milner. "It's tremendous to get to see how great the connection is with the community."
Milner was given a belt buckle and chamber cap, and his wife, Katrin, received a Texas boot of bluebonnets.
The dinners were started in the 1960s by Ed Rhode, who hosted them in his backyard until the number of guests outgrew the space.
Contact Audrey Spencer at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7476.