by Maj. Adam Collett, U.S. Army
HOUSTON, March 25, 2013 – Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Armed Forces Appreciation Committee Chairman Robin Young-Ellis was honored by the military for a multi-year effort to recognize area service members.
Young-Ellis has been a volunteer with the Show for 20 years. In 2008, she initiated an effort to bring local troops and their families to the Rodeo at no cost. Since that time, the program has grown from 500 active duty and reserve troops to nearly 4,000.
“I looked around and noticed that Houston did a lot for our veterans and for our wounded,” Young-Ellis said. “But we weren’t doing as much as we could for those who currently wore the uniform, whether active or reserve.”
It was then that she decided to intertwine the two great passions of her life – an abiding gratitude for the military, and a love for Houston’s long-standing Rodeo. As the program has grown over the years, it has attracted military families from as far as Fort Hood and San Antonio, Texas.
Young-Ellis is a structured settlement consultant by trade. She is quick to give credit for the success of event – which has come to be known as Armed Forces Appreciation Day – to the more than 135 volunteers who now compose the committee that powers the program.
“Once again, the committee executed beautifully this year,” Young-Ellis said. “They did a tremendous job.”
But on this particular day, it was hard for her to escape the spotlight as multiple military entities publicly thanked her for founding the program six years earlier.
Several units from Fort Hood and elsewhere publicly presented certificates and plaques to her as part of a ceremony on the afternoon of the event. But one of the more personal tributes came later in the evening, when a nearby Army Reserve unit inducted her into their ranks as an honorary colonel, a senior officer rank one step below general.
The unit, the 75th Training Command, is the senior military headquarters for Houston and the surrounding region. Brig. Gen. Katherine Kasun, the 75th’s deputy commander, conducted the ceremonial pinning using an actual colonel’s rank – a silver eagle with wings spread.
After visiting with each other over the course of other military-related events in recent months, Kasun and Young-Ellis have become close. Kasun said she was very pleased to be the one to recognize her friend.
“Robin is such a dynamic person. Even outside of the work she does for the Rodeo’s Armed Forces Appreciation Day, she does so much throughout the year for the 75th and every other military unit in the city.”
The unit created its honorary colonel program to recognize individuals from outside of the unit who have made significant contributions to the command, its soldiers or its families.
The program draws inspiration from the American colonial period, when military commissions were granted partly due to standing in the community. The unit maintains a permanent record of every supporter to receive the distinction.
For each gesture she received throughout the day, Young-Ellis insisted that she was accepting on behalf of the committee. But when Kasun pinned the rank on Young-Ellis’ lapel, it was clear that Young-Ellis felt it more deeply and more personally.
The general told her friend that the newly bestowed silver eagle on her shirt was one that Kasun herself had worn on duty years before.
“It was very touching and special. They pinned her wings on me,” Young-Ellis said. “It wasn’t just any rank pin. I am wearing her wings, and that means so much.”
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