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Katy community sends off military recruits in style

August 3, 2018

Katy-area residents who have enlisted in the military service in recent months have received a warm send-off from the community thanks to Texans Embracing America’s Military.

“Each send-off has gotten larger as more and more organizations are involved,” said at-large Katy City Councilman Chris Harris. “It’s grown from a very small event to something humbling and something that everyone wants to be involved in.”

The next send-off will begin at 2 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 5, at Katy Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9182, 6206 George Bush Drive.

Ralph Oliver, founder/creator of Texans Embracing America’s Military, noted on the nonprofit’s Facebook page, www.facebook.com/TEAMKatyTx, “This Aug. 5 send-off could be our biggest yet. We are looking at 31 Army recruits, 11 Air Force recruits, 7 Marine recruits and a possible 10 from the Navy. Let’s pack the house for these kids!”

Oliver, who served six years in the military police, borrowed the idea of a send-off for young military recruits from the neighbor of a friend he went to visit in Colorado. That got Oliver talking with Katy-area public safety groups like police and fire departments as well as community organizations like the Katy Elks, American Legion and VFW. “Everyone was all for it,” he said. Then Hurricane Harvey came and put a damper on things. After the first of the year, Oliver resurrected the idea and the Katy Elks Lodge 2628 at 1050 Katy Fort Bend Road hosted the initial send-off in March. After the VFW reopened its hall that had been damaged by Harvey floodwaters, the growing event moved.

The program starts with a prayer, pledge of allegiance and singing of the national anthem. Recruiters from each service introduce their recruits and parents. Individuals and groups give tokens of appreciation to the recruits and sometimes their parents. The program concludes with what Harris calls a “celebratory line” where everyone lines up and greets each recruit and everyone is cheering and clapping.

Betty Edmundson, an officer of the Elks Lodge and of the VFW Auxiliary, said, “It’s something to remember as they go away. We have a lot of support from the city on this. We’re hoping it will be around for quite some time and give recruits something to look back on.”

It can be quite emotional, added Edmundson. “A lot of young men and women have never been away from home. Some are coming straight out of high school. This is quite a step for them. We try to show our support because we want these young men and women to know when they come back or need something they can get hold of their parents or us and we’ll stand behind them in anyway we can.”

That position is endorsed by Ward A Katy City Councilman J. Gary Jones, a retired U.S. Marine. “I know how it was when I went in the military. Get on a bus and goodbye.” His family cared about him but he didn’t see them until he came home. “When I came home the people who greeted me were spitting on me,” added Jones, who served during the Vietnam era. He wants the kids going into the service today to know that they have the support of their community and its citizens. “I want them to know there is a community and citizens that care about them and remember them when they’re going to defend our nation. Everyone of the military branches is a team and we’re honoring them as a T.E.A.M.”

Jones has attended all the send-offs, but the Aug. 5 event will be special because his grandson, Mason, a U.S. Army recruit, will be participating.

Harris said that Oliver spent a lot of time organizing the nonprofit and its events. “Ralph is not only a true supporter of the military and public servants but he was the coordinator between the civilians and military during Hurricane Harvey.” Based at Katy High school, he coordinated disaster relief.

“He’s been an unbelievable individual in everything he’s done for Katy,” added Harris.

karen.zurawski@chron.com

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