By Elsa Maxey
Sugar Land, a Fort Bend community that draws so many notables, goes down in the books as having had Lt. Colonel Oliver North visit here last week. As a keynote speaker on Friday, he was one of the main attractions at the Honoring America’s Heroes second annual gala and dinner reception at the Sugar Land Marriott organized by Southwest 59 Sunrise Rotary. It is one of the latest clubs going strong in the area. Lt. Col. North shared a memory about his father and how he founded a Rotary club that helped Dr. Jonas Salk, who came up with the vaccine for polio, declared in 1955 to be safe, effective and potent against the virus affecting thousands of Americans yearly. A polio-free world continues to be one of the goals of Rotary clubs globally.
At the annual gala, tributes recognized Lt. Col. Michael Connole of the U.S. Marine Corps, Staff Sergeant Mitchell Corbin with the Texas Air National Guard, U.S. Coast Guard Aviation Technician Second Class Jordan Shelvin, Precinct 4 Fort Bend County Reserve Deputy James Willis and two members of Sugar Land’s protective services sector, Lt. Randy Bayes with the fire department and Police Officer Brennan Echols. Officer Echols is the son of former Missouri City Police Chief Ron Echols. Two other notables at the gala were 94 year old WW II Veteran Ed Gibbons and Dr. Aron Seibel, who served as a Line Corporal in the U.S. Army then, as well.
After an impressive address highlighting reflections on sacrifices made by generations of heroes and those in the armed forces and in public and protective safety services, the San Antonio born Lt. Colonel called attention to how they honorably defended the nation’s freedom and way of life. But he also commented about recently resigning CIA Director General David Petraeus, four-star general who served for 37 years in the U.S. Army. “An example of moral depravity in Washington,” he said about General Petraeus’ “cheating on his wife” in reference to an extramarital affair reportedly discovered in the course of an FBI investigation. He also commented about the media and its role saying that “real” news is selfless.
Missouri City councilmember Danny Nguyen, who was part of the closing ceremony leading the participants in song, presented Col. North with an appreciation plaque on behalf of the local area Vietnamese Chamber of Commerce expressing his appreciation for Col. North’s freedom efforts affecting his life and those of other Vietnamese Americans.
Lt. Col North, a number one best selling author, autographed his latest book not yet released, which newly elected state representative for House District 26 Rick Miller made available, surprising Lt. Col North. Miller and Lt. Col. North were U.S. Naval Academy classmates accounting for Miller’s comfortable reference to him as “Ollie.” In the book, it’s 2032 and Houston, probably Fort Bend, too, is targeted by suicide bombers.
The “been there, done that” military historian who has served as a national security expert is a political commentator and has received the Bronze Star Medal, Silver Star, Purple Heart.
Lt. Col. North featured highlights of war scenes in Afghanistan and other places during the gala, which he sends to the Fox News channel as a contributor. In support of the work of the Sunrise Rotary Club, Lt. Col. North presented a $1,000 check with strings attached. He challenged at least 20 others in attendance at the gala to match the contribution. It turned out to be many more than that, and the club instantly raised about $30,000. North is also involved in leading efforts to help veterans find jobs.
The current president of the Sunrise Rotary Club in Sugar Land is Ret. USAF Lt. Col. Conrith W. Davis. The club meets weekly on Wednesday mornings.