The new U.S. Army garrison commander and command sergeant major for Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield made appearances Monday night at the Hinesville Military Affairs Committee’s meeting at the Hinesville Police Department.
After Col. Kevin Gregory and Command Sgt. Maj. Louis Felicioni introduced themselves to HMAC members and vice versa, they received a briefing by member P.J. Schneider about the committee’s organization and purpose.
“We love this community already,” said Gregory, an artillery officer who previously served with the 3rd Infantry Division as a battery commander when the unit was stationed in Germany. “We look forward to working with you guys.”
Gregory said he was pleased to see so many HMAC members also had artillery backgrounds, while Felicioni, whose military occupational specialty is aviation, said he could at least identify with member Charles Nelson, who is retired from the Air Force.
Schneider told the new leaders that HMAC was formed 12 years ago by former Mayor Tom Ratcliffe and then-Mayor Pro Tem David Anderson, who now serves as HMAC chairman. He said HMAC’s membership includes businesses, veterans’ organizations, civic groups and faith-based organizations — all volunteers.
“HMAC provides support to our soldiers and their families while they’re stationed here and during the Marne Division’s busy deployment schedule,” said Schneider, listing the many programs supported by the group, including redeployment welcome home celebrations, brigade colors for Warriors Walk, “yellow bow” ceremonies and the food court for the annual July 4 celebration.
While mentioning support from veterans’ organizations like the Disabled American Veterans, Veterans of Foreign War, Association of the United States Army and American Legion, he emphasized the Hinesville chapter of the Vietnam Veterans of America has never failed to be there for a welcome-home celebration.
Schneider estimated that HMAC, along with its corporate sponsors, provided meals for 15,000 to 20,000 soldiers, family members and veterans during this year’s July 4 event. Leftover food was donated to first responders and local food banks like Manna House, he said.
Anderson pointed out that HMAC’s costs for supporting the annual event were down, thanks to increased corporate support and individual donations. Schneider recommended that HMAC continue to support the country’s birthday celebration each year, and although there was no official vote, all heads nodded in approval.
In other business, Linda Blanchard read a letter by Charles and Jean Nelson, who came to last month’s meeting for the first time then served as volunteers at the July 4 food court. The Nelsons said they were proud to be a part of an organization like HMAC.
George Holtzman, owner of Coldwell Banker Holtzman, Realtors and chairman of the subcommittee for the Veterans Memorial Walk in Bryant Commons, said the planned meeting with engineers had been postponed because the engineers were not yet ready to present their design and costs estimates for how each branch of service would be represented.