Unite for Troops, a grassroots non-profit organization, held its 8th Annual Veteran’s Day Celebration on Saturday November 9 in Porter’s Army Navy store parking lot in Irving.
Unite for Troops was founded two days after 9/11 by Cindy Porter, who felt moved to do something to show support for our troops, domestic and abroad.
Volunteers were present to pack donated supplies into boxes to ship around the world. The boxes are decorated on the inside by helpers and kids for an extra morale booster.
“We are shipping supplies to our troops worldwide,” Porter said. “They are asking for more help because, right after 9/11, everyone was supporting them, but very few supplies go over there now. These supplies are going to the most desolate and desperate areas. We are free to do things like this and to live our lives because of our troops.”
The most popularly requested supplies are toiletries, various snacks, socks, batteries, puzzle books, flip flops and over the counter pain relievers, such as Advil and Tylenol.
Four colors of ribbons were available at no charge to pin on attendees’ shirts: Red signified an active soldier, Blue represented a retired member of the military, White indicated a family member or a friend of someone who is or had served, and Golden was a special ribbon for veterans of WWII.
There were plenty of things to do for people of all ages. Musical entertainment included singers and bands on the big stage playing songs that were supportive of all military. BBQ, hamburgers, hot dogs and homemade ice cream were offered.
Kids enjoyed their own area, which featured a petting zoo, crafts, face painting, a bounce house, games and even a reptile exhibit. A bull ride machine was available for all ages who were brave enough to take it on. Canine Companions and the DFW Humane Society also brought both service dogs and dogs available for adoption.
Santa Claus even made a special trip to the event to show his support.
“Santa usually doesn’t come out this early in the year, but he wanted to come out and support the troops. When he heard about it, he said he wanted to stop by in his camos [camouflage] in order to take the love and good wishes back to the troops as he heads back to the North Pole,” Porter said.
Irving Police Department brought vehicles out for kids of all ages to take a look at, including an official city car, as well as a Citizens on Patrol car, a half-track MRAP (Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicle and a drone.
Veterans were encouraged to bring flags they had that needed a proper retirement, and a ceremony was held to do so in the afternoon.
The Troops of St. George had several fun offerings.
“We are a Catholic scouting organization here in the North Texas area,” said volunteer Paul Thies. “We represent a number of different Catholic parishes in this region. We are out here today to help support our troops in the field and to participate in the [Unite for Troops] Veteran’s Day event.
“With this tent, we are doing a number of things. We have a flag retirement booth, so when people bring their flags in, we will make sure they are properly disposed of [based on rules outlined in the Constitution]. They will be disposed of in the ceremony this afternoon. One of our leaders is raffling off a ride in a M*A*S*H Vietnam/Korean War era Bell 47 helicopter out at the Cavanaugh Air Museum in Addison. The lucky winner will get a 30-minute ride. We’re doing paintball as well. All of these things are to generate donations and 100% of everything collect will go to our troops via Unite for Troops,” Thies explained.
The helicopter was true to the TV show M*A*S*H down to its 4077 tail number.
Vietnam Veteran John Rose had his own booth, as he took over for Santa Claus when Santa had to go back to the North Pole. He said that he enlisted into the Army at age 26 and got sent to Vietnam for a year as part of a reconnaissance effort. Rose and four of his platoon mates lost their radios, so they hunkered down and learned Morse Code as a last-ditch attempt at communication because no one knew where they were. They were stranded for ten days. They finally received directions to a fire base and made it there on foot, where their commanding officers arranged transport home.
“What we started doing after we lost our receiver was to start going to Charlie’s [the enemy’s] supply depots and we started re-supplying ourselves with weapons, ammunition and a lot of rice. When we were done, we left a message for Charlie: We blew it [the supply depot] up,” Rose recalled with a grin.
“We made it to the fire base and we had long beards and nasty hair and we had hardly any sleep. I’m sure we were the sight. But they were happy to see us and we were sure happy to see them!
“After we made it to the fire base, we were all laying on the floor. One of the guys said, ‘Lieutenant, are those guys asleep? They aren’t paying attention.’ The Lt said, ‘They’re asleep, but make sure you don’t make any loud noises because they’ll wake up real fast and be ready to fight!” said Rose.
Fortunately, Rose does not suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) like so many of veterans do. There were several booths at the event collecting donations for programs to help with the transition to “normal” life as well as to fund programs to provide mental health services to veterans who need it.
For more information, visit UniteForTroops.com.