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BY JANICE GIBBS

TELEGRAM STAFF WRITER 

Brigade Command Sgt. Maj. Glen Vela turned the wire cage, Col. Kevin Vizzarri, commander of 166th Aviation Brigade, selected the ball and called out the number as players in the bingo tournament hurried to be the first to fill their cards.

Members of the aviation brigade and their families were at the William R. Courtney Texas State Veterans Home in Temple on Monday to commemorate Memorial Day with veterans by playing a little bingo, eating some cake and visiting.

Vizzarri said he hoped the veterans understood that the soldiers appreciated everything that had been done before them.

“They paved the way for us,” he said. “They set the example and they motivated us to do what we had to do.”

The visit from the active duty soldier provides a sense of security to the residents of the veteran’s home, said veteran John C. Fischer. Fischer served in the Army and Navy for 22 years from 1957-1978. “They know they are still protected,” Fischer said.

Charles Tibbets, a veteran of World War II and a resident at the veteran’s home, said he was having a good time as he snacked on his cup of ice cream. The modern Army is better equipped and has benefitted from technology, Vizzarri said. “Some of these veterans weren’t equipped sufficiently and others didn’t receive the support of the American people,” he said.

“There’s an unspoken bond between today’s Army and yesterday’s. The veterans are the inspiration.” Col. Kevin Vizzarri, commander of 166th Aviation Brigade

The 166th Aviation Brigade trains National Guard and Army Reserve units from all over the country.

“We have soldiers training all the time mobilized from various states,” Vizzarri said.

Texas, Oklahoma, Michigan and New Hampshire have reservists and guardsmen in training now on North Fort Hood. Missouri is being trained on South Fort Hood.

The 166th Aviation Brigade provides the final training to guard and reserve units prior to deployment.

“About 48 percent of Army aviation is in the guard and reserve,” he said. “When they get the word to deploy they come to us.”

Brigade executive officer Phil Graham said the brigade probably trains about 8,500 individuals a year.

With the draw down taking place in the military, Graham said, there may be more active duty aviation units deployed, however the brigade’s training schedule is currently full.

Lt. Col. Gary Cunningham, battalion commander, said different groups from the brigade visit the Temple veteran’s home regularly.

Cunningham’s father is in a veteran’s home in Wisconsin. “There’s an unspoken bond between today’s Army and yesterday’s,” he said. “The veterans are the inspiration.”

The motivation to serve is the same for both generations, Cunningham said.

jgibbs@tdtnews.com