Armored vehicles, artillery weapons and pieces representing the history of the 124th Cavalry Regiment’s 1st Squadron helped families celebrate the legacy of past and present soldiers on the regiment’s 88th anniversary this weekend.

Hundreds of soldiers and their families visited the First Squadron Headquarters at New Road and Cobbs Drive on Saturday in honor of the squadron’s founding. Displays of military equipment, wartime clothing and history lessons from the regiment Troops A, B and C connected families with the duties of former and current citizen-soldiers. Troops A and B are based in Waco, and Troop C is based in Grand Prairie.

“We brought in a lot of our soldiers’ families, because a lot of the time, they don’t get to see what mom and dad do here,” said Lt. Andrew Simms, executive officer of Troop C. “We also wanted to reconnect with people who may have retired or moved on to bigger and better things. Plus, it is always great to get with the families, because they can forget what we do on a day-to-day or month-to-month basis.”

Families walked through the National Guard headquarters and spoke with soldiers who showcased each troop’s operational purpose. Children were able to visit troops to ask questions, sit in armored vehicles and hold military tools used in the field.

“This is pretty cool, and I really liked the rocket launcher,” Ethan Griego, 10, said after he climbed onto a Troop A military vehicle. “It’s pretty big up there.”

Troop A Cmdr. Octavian Griego said he appreciates his son’s interest about what soldiers do when they are called away.

“This is awesome, because it gives him a good chance to see what dad does when I am away, and that was the biggest goal,” Griego said. “This shows them what we do, but it also helps bring in the families, because when we are away, it can be very challenging.”

Lt. Col. Kevin Smith, executive officer with the squadron, said when soldiers are not deployed overseas, they respond to local disasters, including floods, tornadoes and other calls for services, on a regular basis. Outside of responding to modern-day incidents, Smith said the 124th Cavalry has a rich history too.

“One of our claims to fame is that we were the last operational horse cavalry. We did not get off our horses until 1944,” Smith said. “When we got to Burma, we were dismounted and they made us a part of a long-range penetration task force with a regiment that is now the 75th Ranger Regiment, and we fought side by side in Burma.”

Troop B Sgt. Robert Johnston said guests Saturday also included retired soldiers who came back for the anniversary ceremony. A member of Troop B since 1996, Johnston said visiting with former soldiers and families was the highlight of the celebration.

“Everyone gets a chance to see what we are doing, gets a chance to hear about weapons’ capabilities and see the different platforms we have here,” he said. “This is a great chance for people to see what the National Guard and the soldiers stationed here in Waco can actually do.”

Kristin Hoppa has been covering public safety and breaking news for the Tribune-Herald since January 2016. She worked in Northwest Missouri covering crime-related issues before her move to Central Texas. She is a University of Kansas graduate.

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