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Residents, scholars study military history at symposium

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Posted: Monday, August 8, 2011 12:00 pm

By Lauren Cabral

Killeen Daily Herald

Area residents and scholars gathered Saturday to learn about military history and its place in today's society at the first Central Texas Military Symposium.

More than 25 professors, retired military members and historians presented papers on and discussed topics such as military history in colleges, warfare in the 19th century and personalities in history.

The program, which was held at Central Texas College, 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.

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," Jones said, adding the symposium allowed attendees to learn from various scholars and experts.

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, entitled "Border Conflict: Rip Ford and Confederate Nationalism in Texas."

McCaslin 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."

Jennifer Hetzel, a graduate of CTC's history program who grew up with a parent in the Army, 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," Hetzel 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 Killeen 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 (high school students) remember the stories more than they do the hard facts."

Fred Chavez, director of the Mayborn Planetarium and Space Theater, said as a former Air Force member who was raised by a military parent, he is a "big fan" of military history and found the symposium very interesting too.

"It shows you military history is alive and we should do our best to keep it alive," Chavez said. "There are some very bright and accomplished speakers that are here, so I'm having a great time."

Chavez 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 with the Fort Hood-Central Texas Regional Museum Working Group.

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

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.

Contact Lauren Cabral at lcabral@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7476.

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