Happy 234th Birthday America! Long may you wave
By Joe Olvera (c), 2010
As the nation prepares to celebrate its 234th year of Independence, every American must keep in mind that it has taken millions of lives, since its inception in 1776, to keep this nation free. Soldiers and peacekeepers from every single community in this greatest nation on earth, have sacrificed themselves by fighting the many wars that have kept this nation independent and free of tyranny. Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, is no exception.
Named after William Wallace Smith Bliss, a soldier who fought in the Mexican-American War of 1846, the Fort has experienced many changes, many challenges, and the boots of hundreds of thousands of G.I.s tromping through its hallowed streets. Even before Fort Bliss was built, it already had a presence, when, in 1846, then-Colonel Alexander Doniphan led the first Regiment of Missouri Mounted Volunteers through El Paso, with victories at the Battle of El Brazito, and the Battle of the Sacramento.
Although the base was then located and relocated to many different sites, it wasn’t until Nov. 7, 1848, when War Department Order No. 58 ordered the establishment of a military post across from what is today the City of Juarez, Mexico. From that site, the Fort was moved first to Smith’s Ranch – in what is today Downtown El Paso. It later moved to Magoffinsville, where it remained for 14 years. From there it moved to Camp Concordia, where it had a presence until it finally moved to its permanent location in a place known as La Noria mesa. Laid out by Captain John Ruhlen in 1891, to today, the Fort has continued to be one of the most important and vital military installations in the nation’s history.
Fort Bliss is a military base that encompasses two states – New Mexico and Texas in an area of 1,700 square miles. It stands as the Army’s largest installation, second only to the White Sands Missile Range. Already, the Fort has been the home to several U.S. Patriot Missile Battalions, with a spurt of growth that will soon see it expand to an unprecedented size of some 35,000 soldiers and their families.
From its earliest beginnings, Fort Bliss and its personnel have dedicated themselves, and, all too often, their lives, to preserving this nation’s freedom. The future looms bright for the base as the Base Realignment and Closure opted to increase its population and its freedom-protecting capabilities. The base will help to provide anti-aircraft and missile defense capabilities; conduct live fire exercises of nearly every type of Army weaponry; host joint military exercises with other U.S. and foreign units; be one of the U.S. Army’s premier bases for test-driving tanks and other heavy weapons; house thousands of military vehicles, including all the equipment needed to set up Patriot missile sites, and many other duties as part of its freedom-maintaining missions.
Thus, the United States may celebrate its 234th anniversary, thanks to bases such as Fort Bliss. This military installation that was, originally, created to combat marauding Indian tribes, has grown tremendously to become one of this nation’s greatest arsenals. Fort Bliss and the Fourth of July – they go hand-in-hand, working to preserve those freedoms which all Americans cherish. So, celebrate, eat your watermelon, light up your fire-crackers, eat your potato salad and hot dogs. But, never forget the Base that made all this possible. Thank you Fort Bliss. Long may you wave!