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FRIDAY, OCTOBER 24, 2014  04:30:32 AM

Dedication ceremony honors Central Texas businessmen, lifelong Fort Hood supporters

Email   Print   Share By Michael Heckman, Sentinel Staff
July 2, 2009 | News
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The late T.J. Mills’ son, Billy, and his sisters, Gwen Stewart (left), and Susan Bond admire the monument dedicated Monday in memory of their father and his lifelong friend Bernice “Bernie” Beck. Fort Hood’s main entrance was officially renamed the Bernice “Bernie’ Beck Gate and its main street has been renamed T.J. Mills Boulevard in honor of the Central Texas businessmen’s contributions to the military installation, its Soldiers and their Families. Photo by Michael Heckman, Sentinel Staff
According to his son, T.J. Mills didn’t want the road at Fort Hood’s main gate named after him.

Addressing a crowd of about 250 people huddled in the shade beneath an orange-and-white tent in 100-degree temperatures Monday afternoon, Billy Mills said that after former III Corps and Fort Hood commander Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno contacted the Mills and Bernice “Bernie” Beck families about the proposed name change for Hood Road, Congressman Chet Edwards called the younger Mills and told him he couldn’t go against his father’s wishes because he had told Edwards he didn’t want the road named after him.

Asked why his father was against the proposed name change, Mills told the congressman his father wanted the road named after his lifelong friend, Bernie Beck.

Billy Mills’ solution was to do both: name the boulevard after his father and the main gate after Beck.

The Central Texas families’ lifelong friendship and the positive impact of their relationships with the leaders of one of nation’s largest military installations during the past 40 years was honored during the memorial dedication ceremony held at the Marvin Leath Visitors Center.

Billy Mills said the two friends had an “unchained” way of working with Congress to ensure funding for projects vital to improving the quality of life for Fort Hood Soldiers.

When his father was in Washington, Mills said, T.J. would walk down the halls of the Pentagon and ask, loudly, “How’s your momma doin’?”

“All these little ladies would come runnin’ down and give T.J. a hug. I don’t know how they got all the add-ons for Fort Hood, I didn’t even know what an add-on was...,” Mills said. “But he always was fighting for the betterment of Fort Hood Soldiers.”

During his comments, Edwards, whose 17th Congressional District includes Fort Hood, said, “Every Fort Hood Soldier, every Army Family here today at Fort Hood is the beneficiary of T.J.’s and Bernie’s devotion to Fort Hood and its Soldiers.

“And for many years to come, Fort Hood’s Soldiers will live in better housing, train on better ranges and receive better health care because of their vision.”

Citing some of the projects the Central Texas businessmen helped make a reality, Edwards included $45 million for the new III Corps Headquarters, approved when Leath was in Congress; the public-private housing program enacted through the Residential Community Initiate; and quality of life improvements made possible by construction of the Copeland Soldier Service Center and the Soldier Development Center, new barracks and housing.

Community improvements they had a hand in, Edwards added, include the Killeen-Fort Hood Regional Airport, Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery and the new Central Texas A&M University campus.

Edwards also thanked Congressman John Carter for helping to fund a new chapel and working with him to obtain $621 million for construction of a new Carl R. Darnall Medical Center.

“Those actions completed the dream for Tommie and Bernie.... Even after their passing from this Great Place to the better place, I find myself still moved by their vision for Fort Hood and surrounding communities,” he added.

During his opening remarks, Lt. Gen. Rick Lynch, III Corps and Fort Hood commander, said, “All the great things that have happened at the Great Place over the course of the last decades can be traced back to those two individuals.”

“What I’m excited about,” he added, “is generations to come are going to pause and reflect on these statues and read these plaques and talk about these men of vision.”

After the limestone and bronze monuments had been unveiled, Lynch observed that 400 new Soldiers and their Families come to Fort Hood each week.

“They’ll come through the main gate to the visitor’s center and pause and reflect on these two men of duty.”

Lynch read the inscriptions on the Beck and Mills family plaques.

Beck’s reads: “There wasn’t anything he wouldn’t do for a Soldier both at the individual level and the community level. He loved nothing more than to help a Solder.”

Mills’ plaque, Lynch said, reads: “Serving the Fort Hood community was his hobby. His dedicated efforts significantly enhanced the quality of life for our Soldiers and their Families.”

Concluding his remarks, Lynch said, “When our young soldier pause and reflect on that, they’ll know how to live their dash.”

Commenting about the dash that separates birth dates from the date people die, Lynch often has said what matters is what a person does “in between.”
 
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