When it comes to his portrait on the Wall of Patriots, a gesture Fort Bliss bestows on legendary community partners, former Texas State Rep. Joe Pickett said he appreciated the gesture — no matter where the honor will hang.
“[The public affairs officer] said there was one spot left between the last honoree and the men’s room,” he said with a laugh. “I said ‘i’ll take it’ — I just hope they don’t put it on the men’s room door.”
The self-deprecating advocate for the opening of the Liberty Expressway (SPUR 601) in 2009, and longtime state veterans services champion, Pickett was named the newest member of the Fort Bliss Wall of Patriots during the Fort Bliss and El Paso Strong Ties program reception at Fountains at Farah in El Paso, Texas, April 25, 2019.
Liberty Expressway, a 7.4-mile roadway that is credited in part to the expansion of East Fort Bliss, was built in support of the arrival of the 1st Armored Division when the Army ordered “America’s Tank Division” to move from Baumholder, Germany.
Since then Fort Bliss has tripled its troop community, and with family members, government civilians and contractors working on the base, approximately 100,000 people live and/or work at Bliss.
Maj. Gen. Patrick Matlock, the Fort Bliss and 1st AD commanding general, and the formal host for the evening, said in his remarks that it was the spirit of partnership that fostered historic expansion at Bliss more than ten years ago, and Pickett helped lead that charge.
“Fort Bliss has shared a special relationship with the greater El Paso region for as long as the post has been in existence,” he said. “It’s the only Army divisional post that is surrounded by a major city. It’s this closeness that leads to the strong relationships with the greater El Paso community.”
Pickett, a 24-year statehouse veteran, returned from Austin in January after stepping down to focus on cancer treatment. His positions have included chairing the House Transportation Committee, which made his support for Liberty Expressway integral. He also served as chairman of the Texas House Defense and Veterans Affairs Committee, where he advocated for services and support for Texas military veterans, as well as shouldering other committees while representing the 79th District of Texas.
“Fort Bliss is so important, and as a member of the legislature for 24 years, I had to not only remind the people that I worked with from the rest of the state of Texas ([of Bliss’ value] but people in El Paso [as well]. We go around Fort Bliss, we go through Fort Bliss, it’s been here so long that a lot of times people forget how important Fort Bliss is to our economy and to our region.”
Pickett was joined by current El Paso mayor Dee Margo; former El Paso mayor Oscar Leeser, who was named to the Fort Bliss Wall of Patriots in 2017; as well as other Bliss senior leaders and guests from many public and private organizations to thank Pickett for his service.
Strong Ties is a comprehensive community outreach program designed to maintain strong working relationships between the military and leaders in the Borderland.
As part of the celebration for Pickett, Iron Will, the 1st AD Band rock group, gave some edge to the Business-Casual-dressed crowd and nearby restaurants and shops brought some of their best fares for guests to enjoy.
Pickett said though he would have made a poor military recruit because he is “bad at taking orders,” he appreciated being recognized as a valued Army partner.
“Kidding aside, this is a phenomenal honor,” said Pickett. “It’s always amazing to me that anyone takes the time and looks at some of the accomplishments you’ve done and decides whether they’ve meant enough to the community to give back. General [Matlock] and everyone who came here to honor me, it goes back out — It used to be I only got accolades from my mother, so now it’s Fort Bliss and my mother. Thank you for the honor.”
Amid all of his self-deprecating humor, no matter where his portrait will be located in relation to one of the men’s rooms at the Centennial Banquet and Conference Center on East Fort Bliss, Matlock said Pickett’s legacy to troops, families, and his constituents serves as another reminder of the invaluable partnership the Army has enjoyed in the Borderland for generations.
“In many cases, folks don’t refer to El Paso without mentioning Fort Bliss, and vice versa,” he said. “Few Army posts receive such support from the local community as we do here at Fort Bliss and we’re very grateful for that.”
|Date Posted:||01.03.2020 14:50|
|Location:||EL PASO, TX, US|
|Hometown:||AUSTIN, TX, US|
|Hometown:||EL PASO, TX, US|
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