Gospel music rang throughout the Embassy Suites Ballroom Sunday as the San Marcos Steel Magnolias sang and danced in honor of U.S. Military veterans, active service members and first responders.
The group’s 12 members, clad in matching red jackets, American flag-print scarves and magnolia-shaped earrings, presented a check for $22,500 to Operation Comfort Secretary/Treasurer Tom Roznowski during the event.
Roznowski’s wife, Janis, founded the organization in 2003.
As an American Airlines flight attendant, Janis Roznowski saw many U.S. Military service members flying in and out of the Middle East.
Janis Roznowski began visiting wounded service members at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio and later established the organization’s programs, which include rehabilitative sports and activities.
Tom Roznowski said Janis was unable to attend Sunday’s event because she was participating in a 500-mile group bike ride ending in Corpus Christi.
Vic Hash, recent U.S. Army retiree, spoke at the event about how Operation Comfort has changed his life.
In 2006, Hash witnessed a vehicle in his convoy get hit by an explosive. The soldiers inside the vehicle burned to death.
“Operation Comfort is all about the soldier,” said Hash. “You come home (and) you get operated on a few dozen times… There’s a physical healing and there’s an emotional healing.”
Among the U.S. military service members honored at Sunday’s event were 15 World War II veterans, including 100-year-old Francis Sandberg and 95-year-old Joe Snyder.
Snyder served under Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s press corps during WWII, said Debbie Daniel, The Steel Magnolias founder.
Daniel said the group has since raised almost $25,000 for Operation Comfort.
Operation Comfort was founded to support rehabilitative needs and provide financial assistance for wounded U.S. Military members at Brooke Army Medical Center and Audie Murphy Memorial V.A. Hospital in San Antonio.
“Whenever you say something can’t be done, 12 little women did it,” Daniel said to the 1,500 event attendees.
The work of The Steel Magnolias has not gone unnoticed.
Kim Porterfield, San Marcos deputy mayor pro tem, proclaimed Nov. 11 as “God and Country Celebration Day” during Sunday’s event.
Porterfield said the city recognized the group for its “deep and abiding faith and patriotism.”
Daniel, a native of Louisiana and daughter of a preacher, formed The Steel Magnolias in 2006 after a double knee replacement surgery. San Marcos residents, some of whom later became members of the group, would visit her home while she recovered.
“I told myself, ‘When I get back on my feet I’m going to teach those ladies how to sing and dance and take them on the road,’” Daniel said.
The Steel Magnolias have released four albums, even though some of the group members cannot read music.
Evelyn Meehan, 95, plays harmonica for the group. Veterans Day is a particularly special day for Meehan, who witnessed the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor.
“These women are made of steel,” Daniel said.
The group’s members, whose ages span more than 54 years, will hit the road on an 11-city tour Jan. 3 in Louisiana and Arkansas.