“Providers” send-off Pearl Harbor Veteran survivors

Story and photos by Staff Sgt. Matthew C. Cooley, Public Affairs Officer, 13th SC(E)

Killeen, Texas — “Group, attention! Present arms!” the Soldier giving orders shouted above the rumbling motorcycle engines.

Rows of saluting Soldiers at strict attention lined both sides of the sidewalk leading to the airport terminal entrance. Slowly, too men in their late 80s emerged from a van and returned the salutes before going to check in for their flight to Honolulu.

Soldiers of the 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) along with members of the American Legion Riders Post 55 from Belton, Texas sent-off William R Courtney Texas State Veterans Home’s remaining two Pearl Harbor Veteran survivors at the Killeen Regional Airport here Dec. 4 on their trip to Honolulu for the rededication of the USS Arizona Visitor Center.

Ret. Army 1st Sgt. Albert Kamenicky, who started his military career in the Navy, and former Petty Officer 3rd Class Ben Russell survived the Dec. 7, 1941 Pearl Harbor bombing and witnessed the destruction of the USS Arizona while aboard the USS Phoenix.

The American Legion Riders – veterans themselves – escorted the two Veterans’ vehicle from the Veterans Home in Temple, Texas, to the airport in Killeen on their motorcycles flying American flags.

“It shows great support,” Sgt. Karlton Sayles, a Fort Worth native and 13th SC(E) command driver said. “It shows that we still care about our Veterans.”

William R Courtney’s Veterans are no strangers to the support of active duty Soldiers or of the 13th SC(E). According to Donna Huffman, the Home’s onsite Texas Veterans Land Board representative, Col. Terrence J. Hildner, the 13th’s commander, accepted a flag from the Veterans there on behalf of the fallen Soldiers of the then 13th Corps Support Command in 2005 and has been a frequent visitor and supporter of the home ever since.

“Almost every day there’s some active duty Soldiers there,” Clark Huffman, a Vietnam Veteran and director of the Harley Owners Group, said. Huffman and other members of HOG also road with the motorcycle escort.

Huffman said the active duty Soldiers enjoyed listening to the older Veterans stories and the older Veterans enjoyed telling them. He also said riding with the escort and at similar events was a way to pay tribute to Veterans.

Hildner emphasized the importance of talking to older Veterans.

“This uniform has a history,” Hildner said. “You don’t know it – you hear about, you read about in books, but until you’ve seen it, you don’t know it.”

Hildner said that by having his Soldiers meet with older Veterans like Russell and Kamenicky, he hoped to show them why they follow the Army Values, the Warrior Ethos, and do what they do every day. Hildner explained that listening to the older Veterans stories helped prepare him like a “metaphysical armor.”

“You have to know where you’ve been to know where you’re going,” he said.

“Kamenicky and Russell both commented on the importance of people, both military and civilian, remembering the past.

“ “We think people should remember Pearl Harbor, the Hills in Korea that were hard to take … keep in mind the mistakes that were made and not make those mistakes again,” Russell explained.

“Kamenicky agreed.

“I’ve always tried to do one thing … [help] all the young people remember the [USS] Maine, remember Pearl Harbor, remember D-Day. If you don’t, the military will go down, down, down.”

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news photoRet. Army 1st Sgt. Albert Kamenicky (right), who started his military career in the Navy, and former Petty Officer 3rd Class Ben Russell, both Pearl Harbor survivors, tell war stories to Col. Terrence J. Hildner, the 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) commander, during a sendoff at the Killeen Regional Airport here Dec. 4 on their way to Honolulu for the rededication of the USS Arizona Visitor Center. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew C. Cooley, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) public affairs)

 

news photoRet. Army 1st Sgt. Albert Kamenicky (background), who started his military career in the Navy, and former Petty Officer 3rd Class Ben Russell (right), both Pearl Harbor survivors, speak with members of the American Legion Riders Post 55 from Belton, Texas who escorted them on their motorcycles from William R Courtney Texas State Veterans Home in Temple, Texas to Killeen Regional Airport here Dec. 4, for a sendoff by Soldiers of the 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) on their way to Honolulu for the rededication of the USS Arizona Visitor Center. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew C. Cooley, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) public affairs)