Fallen heroes honored in Fort Hood boot memorial


FORT HOOD, Texas – More than 7,000 pairs of boots were lined in rows on the parade field in front of Fort Hood’s III Corps Headquarters.

The boots represented the Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and Marines service members who have lost their lives. The Copperas Cove Five Hills royalty pledged for the sixth consecutive year to ensure these heroes were honored and remembered as the country celebrated its independence.

Copperas Cove Five Hills Ambassador Dawn Hale is an Army veteran, and said volunteering at the boot display each year is very personal.

“I am honored to walk through each row and pay tribute to each of my brothers and sisters who paid the ultimate sacrifice for the freedoms we enjoy,” Hale said. “I always stop and stay a little longer at the boots of those who lost their lives on Fort Hood.”

U.S. Army veteran and the reigning Copperas Cove Five Hills Ambassador Dawn Hale volunteers at the Fort Hood boot memorial honoring fallen service members. (Courtesy: Copperas Cove Parks and Rec Dept.)

Titleholders made their way through the boot-lined rows – stopping to reminisce, admire and pray for the service members who made the ultimate sacrifice to ensure the freedoms Americans enjoy.

“I lost a cousin due to an [improvised explosive device]. It was my mom’s first cousin, Sergeant Brock Chavers. It brought my mom to tears when my little sister and I spotted his boots,” Preteen Miss Five Hills Dorianna Gilbert said. “We also came across my mom’s officers that died when they were deployed together in the 4-227 Attack Reconnaissance Battalion.”

“It hurt my heart to see my mom shed tears when we found her first cousin’s boots,” Junior Miss Hills De’Ziyah Gilbert said. “I’m a military kid of two Army Veterans. We know the sacrifices military members and family members have to endure. I will never take that for granted.”

The titleholders ensured American flags were inside each pair of boots, inspected the service members’ photo tags for sun or other damage, and ensured the boots were straight and faced forward.

Young Miss Five Hills Emily Kimball has volunteered three years at the memorial, and is always moved by all of the touching messages written on the boots.

“I appreciated the opportunity to read the stories and see pictures of the fallen soldiers,” Kimball said.

Christy Liles, mother of Little Miss Five Hills Braelyn Liles, said she strives to teach her five-year-old about community service.

“I helped her understand she was there to straighten the boots and help make a list of tags to be replaced for soldiers that gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country and those in it,” Liles said. “No child is too young to give back, especially for those that gave their all for us.”

Little Miss Five Hills Braelyn Liles prays behind a pair of boots at the Fort Hood boot memorial. Liles and the Five Hills royalty volunteer at the memorial each year to ensure the boots are in order, replacing worn tags, removing debris, and placing flags in the boots. (Courtesy: Copperas Cove Parks & Rec Dept.)

The royalty worked in two-hour shifts to maintain the memorial for public viewing.

“Volunteering really opened my eyes to the great sacrifices that these fallen soldiers paid for me to continue to live in freedom,” said Senior Ms. Five Hills Renee Moore. “It allowed me to see the faces of the soldiers and feel just a small amount of the pain their families face without their loved ones.”

Five-year-old Copperas Cove Five Hills Junior Ambassador Maddox Tobias stopped to pray while volunteering at the memorial and gave thanks for the service members and their families.

“We saw many family photos and discussed freedom more in-depth and how many sacrificed everything for our country,” said Maddox’s mother, Jillian Tobias. “Maddox noticed the tank nearby. He said maybe he will join the military and drive a tank someday to protect our country.”

Source: Copperas Cove Parks and Recreation Department

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