Ralph Oliver, founder of Texans Embracing America’s Military, formed the organization which seeks to offer support to new U.S. military enlistees after being inspired by a similar group in …
Ralph Oliver, founder of Texans Embracing America’s Military, formed the organization which seeks to offer support to new U.S. military enlistees after being inspired by a similar group in Colorado, he said. His friend, Sam Neighbor, conducts shippers’ ceremonies in Oliver’s hometown of Cañon City, Oliver said.
“Whenever the recruiting center had a young man or young lady going off to the military; they would just grab them up real quick and do (the shippers ceremony),” Oliver said. “And I kept hearing about it all the time. … That was probably 2016, 2017 and I kept it in my mind and I was like, ‘You know, I wonder if Katy does anything like that?’”
Oliver said he looked into it and didn’t find anyone local that was doing anything for recruits who were new enlistees and shipping out for training. He thought about it and decided to start something for the Katy area himself. He had surmised that, if Neighbor could do it in Colorado, he could start something in Katy. However, he wanted to make sure everyone from all branches of service would be included, not just the Army as he’d seen in Colorado. So, he approached local recruiting offices.
“I started kind of snooping around, talking to recruiters, and saying, ‘Hey, this is what I want to try to do. Would y’all be on board with it,’” Oliver said.
Recruiters seemed excited about the idea of a sendoff for recruits, Oliver said. So he reached out to first responders and ran the idea by them. Soon, the Katy Fire Department, Harris County Sheriff’s Office, Harris County Constable for Precinct 5 Ted Heap’s Office, Harris County Emergency Services District 48 and other local first responder organizations said they would be willing to show up and support the young soldiers, marines, seamen and airmen as they went off to defend the country, Oliver said.
It took Oliver a bit to figure out what he wanted to call the event though. The shipper service that Neighbor had set up in Colorado wasn’t quite right once Oliver involved all of the branches. Each branch’s recruits go to a different type of training and have unique jargon that identifies their initial training. But then one day, it came to him as he was lying in bed.
“I was laying there one night in bed and I said, ‘You know, it’s going to be a team effort to do all this, and I have a couple friends that were already really interested in helping me get it started.’” Oliver said.
The word “team” stuck with Oliver for a bit, and that’s when he figured out the name.
“God pumped this thing in my brain and said, ‘How about Texans Embracing America’s Military?’ and I was like, “That’s it,’” Oliver said.
Oliver held his first event at the Elks Lodge Number 2628 in Katy in 2018, he said. Each event is a sort of pep rally for the young recruits. The ceremony starts with a prayer followed by the Pledge of Allegiance. Then someone sings the National Anthem and the recruiters bring up the new enlistees and introduce them. Each trainee’s branch of service and military occupational specialty – or MOS – is discussed. Each trainee talks a bit about why they decided to join the military. Each event also includes a keynote speaker, Oliver said.
The gatherings eventually outgrew the Elks Lodge’s space and went to the Second Baptist Church for a while. It has since been hosted by Crosspoint Community Church and future events may be held at Westland Baptist Church, Oliver said.
The events are also attended by veterans at organizations such as Katy VFW Post Number 9182, American Legion Post Number 164 and other veterans and civilians who want to support the recruits, Oliver said.
The pandemic put a stop to the gatherings for most of 2020, Oliver said, but he’s working on starting the events up again. One was scheduled for May 30 but was canceled because the recruits that were expected to attend were unable to make it due to other obligations. However, there will be more events in the future he said.
“The last one we did; we did a big event for Veterans Day, and so we may look at that direction,” Oliver said.
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