The highlight of the afternoon was the screening of the award-winning documentary Honor Flight: One Last Mission on the video board at Minute Maid Park, preceded by a 2:00 p.m. program including guest speakers US Senator John Cornyn, Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, Adjutant General of Texas John Nichols, Col. Deborah Grays from the US Army, President General of National Society Daughters of the American Revolution Lynn Forney Young Texas DAR State Regent Pamela Wright, World War II veteran Col. George McDowell, producer of Honor Flight Clay Broga and Chairman and Owner of the Houston Astros Jim Crane. Attendees were treated to special performances by country music legends Gary Morris, Tracy Byrd and others, as well as a live parachute demonstration by the Re/Max Sky Diving Team of Texas and the Honor Your Veteran photo display on the video board, featuring photos of veterans of any era submitted by the community.
Prior to the event, the Consul General of France Sujiro Seam honored eight United States World War II veterans with the medal of Chevalier in the French Order of the Legion of Honor in the Union Station Lobby of Minute Maid Park. Among the veterans who received the Legion of Honor was Chester Sloan, who was born in Corsicana and now lives in Houston. He landed on Omaha Beach on June 7, 1944 with the 38th Infantry Regiment and was injured in Eastern France. Theodore Noel was born in New York State and now lives in Midland, TX. He landed on Omaha Beach on June 7, 1944 with the 110th Anti Aircraft Artillery Battalion and was injured in the Ardennes. William Pena was born in Laredo, TX and now lives in Houston. He landed in Normandy on September 6, 1944 with the 109th Infantry Regiment and was among the first to enter liberated Colmar. He was later injured in Germany. Marshana Hatch was born in Augusta, TX and now lives in Crockett. He took part in Operation Dragoon with the 370th Infantry Regiment. Charles Conaway was born in Crockett, TX where he still lives today. He landed on Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944 with the 460th Amphibious Truck Company. Hillard Bielat was born in Chicago and now lives in Conroe,TX. He landed in Normandy on June 15, 1944 with the 120th Infantry Anti Tank Company. He was later injured on the Belgian front. Edwin Wheeler was born in Silsbee, TX and now lives in Beaumont. He landed on Utah Beach in July 1944 with the 80th Infantry Division. UJ King was born in Sudan, TX where he still lives today. He landed on Omaha Beach on June 7, 1944 with the 23rd Infantry Medical Detachment as a medical aidman. Elmer Denson sadly passed away a few weeks ago, before he could be presented with his medal. He was born in Oklahoma, and until recently lived in Houston. He took part in the liberation of Wingene sur Moder in Alsace with the 2nd Battalion of the 274th Infantry Regiment. His son, Richard, received the medal in his name.
Since its creation by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802, the National Order of the Legion of Honor has remained the highest, most prestigious, decoration in France. This order is awarded solely as a recognition of merit or bravery, open to men and women of all ranks and professions. Senator John Cornyn, Mayor Annise Parker, Brigadier General Brently White, and Colonel Robert Samborski attended the ceremony, along with students from the Awty International School, Waltrip High School and the HISD Jr. ROTC program from Davis High School. Astros military veteran and Hall of Fame broadcaster Milo Hamilton served as emcee.
In addition to presenting sponsor Occidental Petroleum, supporting sponsors of the Astros Salute to Veterans included Breitling, ARAMARK Corporation, Marathon Oil Corporation and Re/Max.