EL PASO (U.S. ARMY) — El Paso’s annual Fiesta de las Flores devoted its final evening at the El Paso County Coliseum Sunday to Military Appreciation Night.
The evening began with a dinner that included VIPs from Fort Bliss and the local community and honored four current Fort Bliss Soldiers for previous valor on the battlefield.
The Soldiers honored included three Purple Heart recipients, Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Haeusler, 3rd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault); Sgt. James D. Whetstone, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, U.S. Army Garrison Fort Bliss; Spc. Seth Burgess, Company A, 1st Battalion, 36th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division; as well as Staff Sgt. Roy Hernandez, HHC, U.S. Army Garrison, for their multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Fort Bliss Garrison Commander Col. Brant Dayley, who represented Fort Bliss at the dinner, Beto O’Rourke, representative for Texas’s 16th Congressional District and Sergio Lewis, El Paso County Commissioner for Precinct 2, publicly thanked the Soldiers for their service and handed them each a certificate of appreciation and a folded American flag.
Veterans of earlier wars were recognized as well, by Master Sgt. Chris Lewis, a student at the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy who wore an authentic World War II uniform to the dinner and by the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 574, who served as a color guard and did a presentation on the symbolism of the prisoner of war and missing in action table set up at the front of the room.
After the formal part of the evening, the honorees and guests all enjoyed a dinner donated and served by Cattleman’s Steakhouse in Fabens, Texas, before heading outside to enjoy the festival.
Later, from the festival’s main stage, Dayley thanked the crowd for supporting our nation’s military. He also introduced the four warfighters who were honored at the dinner, presented them each with a plaque and gave each of them a chance to thank the crowd.
The League of United Latin American Citizens Council organized the Fiesta de las Flores festival and the Military Appreciation dinner. Admission to the festival was free for all Military I.D. cardholders on Military Appreciation Night.
Fiesta de las Flores is the oldest Hispanic Festival in the Southwest. The three-day fiesta, held each year during the Labor Day weekend, emphasizes El Paso Hispanic heritage and culture and attracts approximately 30,000 visitors from El Paso county, Albuquerque, N.M., southern New Mexico, West Texas and the State of Chihuahua, Mexico.
The Fiesta is also well known for authentic regional cuisine, arts and craft wares, games and services. More than 80 booths, sponsored by local vendors and non-profit organizations, further highlight the region’s Hispanic culture.