SAN ANGELO, Texas — Texas has the largest veteran population in the country, with well over a million vets residing here. And with 15 active military installations across the state serving as a sort of 'test run' for Lone Star living, many of those troops who had never been here before are choosing to come back once their service is up.
DAV 237 Commander Luis Martinez said one of the main reasons for that is the care available at VAs like the one in San Angelo, and the wealth of veteran programs and support groups available, such as the All Veterans Council of Tom Green County, Women Veterans Society and the VFW, among many others.
“The cool thing about San Angelo is that we’re growing, veteran number-wise,” Martinez said. “We’re growing fast. Because veterans see that they’re getting the help they need when they come here.”
With San Angelo being located right in between El Paso (which was designated the “Veteran Capital of the US”) and San Antonio’s Lackland AFB, which alone sees more than 35,000 recruits pass through every year, Martinez said San Angelo is in a prime spot to really make an impact as far as improving the lives of vets.
“Here in San Angelo we’re the heart of the veteran community. We take pride in that.”
Another reason, he said, is a sense of community—not just with other vets—but with the Texans who welcome them back into civilian life.
“It’s not just the veterans, it’s the civilians as well. That’s why I love this community, because everyone says, ‘I’m gonna help. I’m gonna take care of this person.’”
That sense of community and sibling-like bond is one of the things that inspired the Inaugural Veterans Awards Ball. Martinez said it’s a chance to have some fun, as well as say 'thank you' for the network of veteran support throughout the Concho Valley.
“It’s our first veterans ball. We’ve never had one in San Angelo. When you’re in the military, you’re used to doing all kinds of these… Something just to recognize the history of that service and whatnot,” Martinez said. “So we wanted to do something with that here in San Angelo. Because in San Angelo, we have a rich, rich veteran history here, and we want to celebrate that. So we’re not only gonna do a ball, but we’re gonna recognize agencies and individuals for the work they’ve done for the veterans in the community.”
A big part of that will be a continued salute to women veterans, which inspired the ball’s name.
“This ball keeps in line with the theme that we had from our parade, which is celebrating women veterans. So we’re gonna call it the ‘Combat Boots and Pearls Ball.’ And we’re still gonna keep celebrating women veterans, because they make a lot of sacrifices as well.”
The ball is set to kick off at 6 p.m. Saturday, March 25, at the Fort Concho Commissary Building. For more information, contact San Angelo Veterans.
All are welcome.
“Everybody,” Martinez said. “The whole community is invited. This is going to break the norms of typical military balls, because this is an opportunity for us to start our own traditions… With Goodfellow and the veteran community here, it’s an amazing partnership, and then when you put San Angelo civilians on top of that, we’re a steam train that can’t be stopped. And the whole state is starting to recognize it. So that’s why everyone is coming to San Angelo for help. Whether you’re military, veteran or civilian, we’re all working together for the same goal, which is to take care of each other.”