HARKER HEIGHTS — Mother Nature held her breath Saturday allowing the fifth annual Veterans Welcome Home celebration to go off without a hitch.
More than 3,000 active-duty soldiers, veterans and their immediate families gathered at Carl Levin Park for an evening of free food and a variety of entertainment.
A job fair, featuring more than 20 employers wanting to hire veterans, booths sharing information on VA health programs, dozens of vendors and more than 30 state colleges and universities were on hand to offer assistance and answer questions.
“I really appreciated all the education information they had here and all the opportunities for service members,” said Master Sgt. Daryle Walker, III Corps Headquarters. “What’s great is the focus this community has not only on veterans, but their families as well. We couldn’t do our jobs if it wasn’t for the support we get from our families, so it’s nice for them to get recognized as well.”
During the opening ceremonies, Harker Heights Mayor Mike Aycock read a proclamation declaring Sept. 28 as Veterans Welcome Home Day.
Event guest speaker, Brig. Gen. Clark LeMasters, commander of the 13th Sustainment Command, applauded the city and the Central Texas Veterans Health Care System for all they do to support to veterans and their families.
“We have 21 million veterans in the U.S., and 1.5 million of them live in Texas and 4,500 of them reside here in Harker Heights,” he said. “This event is a great testament to the community and the Department of Veterans Affairs that embraces our veterans. The support here is unparalleled when you look at other nations.”
A place to network
For newly retired 1st. Sgt. Rajesh Harripersad, the event helped him transition out of the service by offering him a place to network.
“I got a lot of great information out of the event last year and it was fun,” he said. “This is a very good place for people to connect and get educated on their benefits and what programs they have access to, especially when they are getting out.”
Not only was the event a one-stop-shop for food, fun and information, the event was a way for the Central Texas Veterans Health Care System and the city to say “thank you” to veterans and soldiers.
“It’s important for us to recognize the service that our soldiers and veterans have provided our country,” said Deborah Meyer, public affairs specialist at the Central Texas Veterans Health Care System. “We want them to know that they are not forgotten and people don’t thank them enough for what they have done and continue to do for our country.”