Astros host special event at Minute Maid Park on Veterans Day

Astros host special event at Minute Maid Park on Veterans Day
November 11, 2013, 7:30 pm
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Astros host special Veterans Day event

The Houston Astros and Texas Society Daughters of the American Revolution teamed up to host an event to honor our nation’s military and veterans, with a special thanks to those who served in World War II.   

The Astros Salute to Veterans Presented by Occidental Petroleum was free and open to the public.

The day began with a special ceremony in which the Consul General of France Sujiro Seam honored nine Houston-area World War II veterans with the French Order of the Legion of Honor. Since its creation by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802, this honor has remained the highest, most prestigious, decoration in France.

The honored veterans were: Chester Sloan (he landed on Omaha Beach on June 7, 1944 with the 38th Infantry Regiment and was injured in Eastern France); Theodore Noel (he landed on Omaha Beach on June 7, 1944 with the 110th Anti Aircraft Artillery Battalion and was injured in the Ardennes); William Pena (he landed in Normandy on September 6, 1944 with the 109th Infantry Regiment and was among the first to enter liberated Colmar. He was later injured in Germany); Marshana Hatch (he took part in Operation Dragoon with the 370th Infantry Regiment); Charles Conaway (he landed on Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944 with the 460th Amphibious Truck Company); Hillard Bielat (he landed in Normandy on June 15, 1944 with the 120th Infantry Anti Tank Company. He was later injured on the Belgian front); Edwin Wheeler (he landed on Utah Beach in July 1944 with the 80th Infantry Division); Uj King (he landed on Omaha Beach on June 7, 1944 with the 23rd Infantry Medical Detachment as a medical aidman); Elmer Denson, who sadly passed away a few weeks ago, before he could be presented with his medal. He took part in the liberation of Wingene sur Moder in Alsace with the 2nd Battalion of the 274th Infantry Regiment. His son, Richard, received the medal in his name.

Astros Hall of Fame broadcaster Milo Hamilton emceed the event as he has so many events over the years, but this particular one brought extra meaning to him because he also served in World War II.

“To me it’s more special today because we really singled them out,” Hamilton said. “We’re losing about 650 World War II veterans every day, so I think it’s good to do it now while we still got a lot of them that can still be with us.”

A private lunch reception was held for veterans and their families in the Diamond Club while the public was entertained on the field by country stars Tracy Byrd and Gary Morris.

“It is such a privilege to be here having survived any action,” World War II veteran Clyde Combs said. “It’s such a privilege to share the stories with so many veterans on this Veterans Day.”

“This is wonderful to get the recognition,” World War II veteran Al Shawd said. “It was pretty tough at the time of course. I was just 17 when I joined the Air Corp and I was very fortunate the Lord looked after me.”

The salute continued out on the field with a program of guest speakers that included U.S. Senator John Cornyn, Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, Astros owner Jim Crane and World War II veteran Col. George McDowell. The last speaker of the day was Clay Broga, the producer of the award-winning documentary Honor Flight: One last Mission. The screening of this documentary was the highlight of the afternoon. It follows thousands of World War II veterans who were flown back to Washington D.C. by several Honor Flight Network branches to see the memorial constructed in 2004 in their honor.

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