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Rep. Carter honors vets for service after military

Fort Hood Herald

KILLEEN — Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock, hosted his seventh annual Congressional Veteran Commendation Ceremony on Saturday on the campus of Texas A&M University-Central Texas in Killeen.

KILLEEN — Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock, hosted his seventh annual Congressional Veteran Commendation Ceremony on Saturday on the campus of Texas A&M University-Central Texas in Killeen.

“The Congressional Veteran Commendation Ceremony is a special opportunity for Central Texans to express our overwhelming appreciation for the veterans who have served our country honorably in our Armed Forces and continued their selfless service to better our community,” Carter said during the ceremony. “The 10 distinguished veterans honored at today’s ceremony have gone above and beyond answering the call to serve, and we will be forever grateful for their dedication and sacrifice.”

Among the 10 veterans recognized for their service to the community after leaving the military on Saturday were a senior pastor of a church, an organ donor, a city councilman and a college chancellor.

Following Carter’s remarks, Maj. Gen. Steven Gilland, III Corps and Fort Hood deputy commander, gave a keynote address.

“Reading through all of your bios was a humbling experience,” Gilland said. “When you took off the uniform, you did not leave service or retire from service; you brought a commitment to high standards, discipline, excellence and selfless service to a vast array of organizations outside the military and within our communities.”

Five of Saturday’s recipients were from Bell County, and five were from Williamson County.

“I feel like this is an honor, and I didn’t expect it,” said Jim Yeonopolus, one of the recipients.

Yeonopolus is the chancellor of Central Texas College in Killeen.

During his time in the Air Force, which began in 1968, Yeonopolus volunteered to serve with the South Vietnamese army during the Vietnam War.

After his career in the Air Force, he has contributed his time and energy to a multitude of organizations that rely on volunteerism and social engagement.

“I’m grateful for the award. I’m humbled by it — receiving the recognition for it,” said retired Sgt. Maj. Rodney Gilchrist, senior pastor of Liberty Christian Center in Killeen.

The church has given free haircuts, clothing and meals to anyone in need.

Gilchrist served in the Army from 1986 to 2010.

While in the Army, Gilchrist served as a small group leader at the Advanced Noncommissioned Officers Course, where he led 175 NCOs to a 99% graduation rate.

“It’s a humbling honor, especially being among all these other recipients today and hearing what more veterans are doing for the community beyond service,” said Ken Cates, chief executive officer for the Fort Hood Area Habitat for Humanity.

Fort Hood Area Habitat for Humanity is a nonprofit affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International, a Christian housing ministry with a purpose of building homes, communities and hope in Bell, Coryell and Lampasas counties.

In 2019, Cates was named a “Hometown Hero” by the Harker Heights Chamber of Commerce and the 2019 NEXEN Hero.

During his career in the military — in the Army and the Coast Guard — Cates completed many missions, including 120 emergency combat responses, 150 coordinated executive leader engagement missions and 15 natural disaster responses.


Those who received the commendation Saturday were:

Sergeant Theodore Acheson, U.S. Army (Georgetown)

Capt. Richard J. Archer, U.S. Army (Temple)

Retired Lt. Col. John E. Byrne, Jr., U.S. Army (Round Rock)

Retired Sgt. 1st Class Ken Cates, U.S. Army & U.S. Coast Guard (Harker Heights)

Retired 1st Sgt. Gene Davenport, U.S. Army (Leander)

Retired Sgt. Maj. Rodney Wayne Gilchrist, U.S. Army (Killeen)

Capt. Joseph F. Kiefer Jr., U.S. Air Force (Temple)

Retired Rear Adm. David Lee Maserang, U.S. Navy (Georgetown)

Retired Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jason Shaw, U.S. Army (Leander)

Sgt. Jim M. Yeonopolus, U.S. Air Force (Belton)

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