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Katy T.E.A.M. to send off recruits on Veterans Day

November 6, 2018

When Ralph Oliver formed Texans Embracing America’s Military earlier this year to host a special send-off for military recruits, he had hopes it would grow.

Growth has come faster than the Katy-area resident anticipated.

“We’ve outgrown two facilities,” he said.

Oliver credits word of mouth for much of the growth that has occurred since the first send-off in the spring.

“It’s grown significantly bigger than I thought it would,” he said. “I hope it get even bigger.”

The sixth send-off and the last of the year involves a special program on Veterans Day. It will begin at 2 p.m. Nov. 11 at Second Baptist Church-West Campus, 19449 Katy Freeway, Houston. New recruits from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines will participate in the celebration.

Oliver, who served six years in the military police, said he borrowed the idea of a send-off for military recruits from the neighbor of a friend he went to visit in Colorado. Last year, Oliver reached out to Katy-area public safety groups and found support for the concept, but then Hurricane Harvey hit. He returned to the idea earlier this year.

The first send-off occurred in March at the Katy Elks Lodge 2628, which is based at 1050 Katy Fort Bend Road. Oliver said he thought the send-off would be at that location for three or four times, but the event outgrew that site quickly.

Then the event moved to the Katy Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9182 Post. But that parking lot couldn’t accommodate for long all the visitors, participants and first responders with fire trucks and police cars. Last month, Second Baptist Church-West Campus hosted its first send-off as support and participation continues to grow and more space is needed.

The fifth send-off at the church campus drew a packed house, said Oliver, and there’s still room to grow. There will be plenty of parking for anyone who wants to come out and be part of the sixth send-off, he said.

Oliver said his goal also includes trying to set up similar organizations in different towns such as Sugar Land and Pearland.

The send-off so far has been Katy-centered, but Oliver said outside communities have been invited to be part of it. “It’s not just strictly for the Katy area,” said Oliver. “Army recruiters in Cypress are doing a small send-off event after seeing one of the Katy events.

“That was my intention to get out there and have as many communities recognize their kids in their communities.”

Because the sixth send-off occurs on Veterans Day, Oliver said veterans attending the program will be recognized in a different way.

District 22 U.S. Rep. Pete Olson, R-Sugar Land, has been invited to attend along with officials of the City of Katy. The event will feature a retired special forces Green Beret as a guest speaker and a video clip of President Donald Trump speaking about Veterans Day.

The T.E.A.M.’s Facebook page says, in part, “We thought that this would be a very special day for all of our veterans past, present and also our future soldiers that are being sent off.” Visit www.facebook.com/TEAMKatyTx for more information.

“I just appreciate everyone’s support behind the whole program,” said Oliver, as he thanked all the officials and first responders who have supported the send-off event from the start.

karen.zurawski@chron.com

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