Actively-serving men and women, and veterans, young and old, filled NRG Park at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018, to receive appreciation for their service in the armed forces of the United States.
The cheerful crowd grew silent as the Marine Corps Band of New Orleans began the National Anthem to kick off Armed Forces Appreciation Day, presented by BHP, at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo during the Welcome Ceremony. A military flyover stifled the noise of the surrounding carnival rides. Military veterans, actives and recruits stood and received applause as a thank-you for their service.
Former Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Chief Operating Officer, and Vietnam veteran, Leroy Shafer, said he believes it is only right to reserve a day during the Rodeo to honor the brave men and women who serve or have served our country.
"We celebrate Western heritage here at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo," Shafer said, "but today, we are celebrating the men and women who serve our country, past and present."
Bill Gazis, retired Colonel with the United States Army Reserves, is a supporter of the event. He said his motivation for attending the event is to honor his father who served in World War II.
"I came [to the Rodeo] because he can't, but I know he would have loved to," Gazis said. "It's a big deal and a privilege to hang out with these guys from World War II, who were there when my dad was."
Marine Corps recruiter, Sergeant Raudel Avila of Houston said he is extremely grateful to see all the support for the military.
"It is so humbling," Avila said. "Sometimes we don't fully see how much people support the military and what we are doing. I am so grateful for all the volunteers and all the work they did to bring this together."
In addition to honoring previous and present military men and women, the ceremony included a segment for military recruits to take the U.S. Armed Forces Oath of Enlistment. More than 500 men and women raised their right hands and vowed to serve their country.
Alyssa Palmer of Alvin, Texas, took the oath and became a member of the U.S. Military on Armed Forces Day. The high school senior will depart for Fort Sill, Oklahoma, after graduation to begin basic training. Palmer said she is encouraged by the amount of support she has received throughout the enlistment process.
"It is refreshing to see how strongly people support the military," Palmer said. "It is crazy to see all these people out here wanting to show their thanks to us in any way they can."