Glamorous dresses and tuxes filled the American Airlines’ Hangar 5 on the grounds of the Dallas Fort- Worth International Airport during the 16th annual Sky Ball on Oct. 27.
The annual gala honored veterans and raised money for several organizations that help support veterans and their families. The event gathered veterans from all the military branches together to honor Vietnam POWs.
“Sky Ball has been an amazing event,” Army Command Sergeant Major Dan Benedict said. “Meeting POW survivors and 15 Medal of Honor awardees; I am at a loss for words to be around these great men.
“I am going to share this moment and experience with my soldiers in my command. I will tell them everything we have today has been made possible by the blood, sweat and tears of the men before us, and I had the opportunity to meet them today.”
The funds raised by the event will support the Airpower Foundation, whose mission directly supports our nation’s wounded, ill, and injured service members, veterans and their families.
Medal of Honor recipient Alfred Rascon praised the gala.
“Sky Ball is an organization that pays respect to the country,” Rascon said. “It is not about an airline. A huge group of people are here to give themselves and give money to organizations that need help. They come back and help the veterans. I think it is fantastic.”
Rascon was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions during the Vietnam War. During a battle, Rascon raced to a wounded comrade and placed himself between enemy fire and the other soldier dragging him to a safe location.
“My medal was given to me by being at the right place at the right time,” Rascon said. “During a battle at Vietnam, I was a medic and took care of those who were dying.”
Prisoner of War in Vietnam for 5 ½ years, Thomas Kirk, appreciates the event for it honoring the military.
“Skyball is important to me, because it recognizes service to the country.” Kirk said. “The men go off in their uniforms, and they don’t know how long they will be gone. They don’t make much money and many of them suffer wounds. Skyball is a wonderful thing, because it recognizes the service that these guys give to their country that many people really don’t understand.
“Skyball is there to help them when they need it, to make their lives a little better. Skyball is thanking them for their service to the country.
“Everybody out here in some way or another is here because they recognize the service and the sacrifice of our young men and women in the military. I believe that they believe in their hearts that they need to pay them back and a good way to do that is financially.”
Being a Vietnam veteran, Kirk touched on the difference in soldier homecomings now versus then.
“It was a little different with us coming home,” Kirk said. “Everybody was so anti-war when the war ended that our young men and women were treated very badly when we came home.
“It turns out that the release of the POWs was one of the only good things to come out of the end of the war. They treated us very well and recognized that we had been through quite a bit. We were treated with honor and respect. I talk a lot today about recognizing the service to your country that all branches are doing. Those guys and gals are willing to pay a price and serve this great country.”
Also during the event, 16 men and women were sworn into the armed services.
Saturday night’s gala was the end of three days of events, including a Return to Freedom Celebration Gala recognizing Vietnam Veterans and a Salute to the Heroes concert with artist Pat Green. Country duo Big and Rich performed during the Sky Ball Gala.
You can view video from the event below:
Video by John Starkey
Written by Tricia Sims