The Salvation Army's bright red donation kettles provided visual notes of the season as the Harbor Light Choir filled the lobby of the Hilton Americas-Houston ballroom with songs of praise, setting the stage for the Army's annual luncheon, this year celebrating its mission of "Doing the Most Good" for 125 years.
The luncheon program touched on many areas of the Army's work including providing shelter for homeless veterans. Since inception of the targeted program two years ago, 826 homeless veterans in Houston have found permanent dwellings.
"There are more animal shelters than there are women shelters in the United States."
In discussing the Army's family residences for the homeless, Major Chris Flanagan noted, "There are more animal shelters than there are women shelters in the United States." The luncheon, chaired by Joyce and Tom Standish, raised a record $560,000, for those and other Army programs.
Long-time Salvation Army supporter Evelyn Howell was luncheon honoree, receiving a standing ovation from the crowd of more than 460.
The meat of the midday gathering came when keynote speaker Michael Durant, inspiration for the book and subsequent movie Black Hawk Down, took the stage to recount in compelling storytelling the horrific battle that left 18 American soldiers dead and more than 70 wounded. Durant was captured and tortured while being held in Somalia for 11 days.
Many of the mistakes resulting in the disaster, he said, began at the top in Washington. The lesson learned in Somalia can be applied universally, Durant intoned, quoting from Gen. Colin Powell's lessons in leadership, "The commander in the field is always right and the rear echelon is wrong, unless proved otherwise."
Joining in the standing ovation for Durant at the end of his remarks were Salvation Army advisory board chairman Jeff Early and Beth Early, Lilly and Thurmon Andress, Linda McReynolds, Elise Joseph, Maria and Neil Bush, Judi McGee, Jeanie Kilroy Wilson and Wally Wilson, Vicki West and Cathy and Joe Cleary.