2017-11-14 / Front Page

Events honor America’s veterans

BY DEREK MOY AND DAVID LOWE
DISPATCH RECORD


George J. Kilgore Jr., a Vietnam War veteran who served in the U.S. Army, shares a moment with Sgt. Matthew Hardy, left, and Spc. Collins McCauley of the 62nd Engineer Battalion after Kempner’s Veterans Day ceremony. 
DAVID LOWE | DISPATCH RECORD George J. Kilgore Jr., a Vietnam War veteran who served in the U.S. Army, shares a moment with Sgt. Matthew Hardy, left, and Spc. Collins McCauley of the 62nd Engineer Battalion after Kempner’s Veterans Day ceremony. DAVID LOWE | DISPATCH RECORD A ll across Lampasas County, residents gave veterans the respect, honor and appreciation they deserve as part of Veterans Day observances.

Events at schools, the courthouse square and in area municipalities were held to thank those who have served in the military.

LOMETA PROGRAM

In Lometa, students showed their love and support for the soldiers and veterans sitting in the secondary gym.

Lometa’s Alpha Rangers walked across the gymnasium with flags of the various branches of the armed services, and applause was given while those who served in each branch stood.

When it was time for the Alpha Ranger carrying the POW/MIA flag to walk, those in attendance turned somber, quietly thinking of those missing or lost.


Air Force and Army veteran Kenneth Bench speaks with his great-great-niece Delanie Smith, 12, while petting service dog Lulu at Lampasas Middle School’s Veterans Day Program. 
DEREK MOY | DISPATCH RECORD Air Force and Army veteran Kenneth Bench speaks with his great-great-niece Delanie Smith, 12, while petting service dog Lulu at Lampasas Middle School’s Veterans Day Program. DEREK MOY | DISPATCH RECORD After the flag presentation, students in kindergarten through fifth grade participated in singing to the audience.

Keynote speaker, the retired Lt. Col Stephen Ruzicka, explained that when he joined the U.S. Army, he said he would only stay if he liked it. That turned into 21 years of service.

During his time in the Army, travel was one of the most enjoyable things he got to do.

“As a child I remember reading history books and things, thinking, ‘Wow, that would be great to go there and see some of these things in person,’ ” Ruzicka said. “That was one of the most fulfilling [things about the armed services], other than the camaraderie.”


Charles Hunt, an Army veteran, beams at his two grandchildren, Payton Tatum, 13, and Nathan Hunt, 13, during the Lampasas Middle School Veterans Day program Thursday. 
DEREK MOY | DISPATCH RECORD Charles Hunt, an Army veteran, beams at his two grandchildren, Payton Tatum, 13, and Nathan Hunt, 13, during the Lampasas Middle School Veterans Day program Thursday. DEREK MOY | DISPATCH RECORD The veteran said serving with people from all over the U.S. was a great experience.

“In the military, people come from every background, every race, everywhere in the United States,” Ruzicka said. “That’s something where we come together, work together for the common mission. It’s very fulfilling.”

LAMPASAS MIDDLE SCHOOL

At Lampasas Middle School, two students were selected to read their essays about what they would say to a veteran.

Eighth-graders Katie Procter and Zachary Inglis recognized the bravery and selflessness it takes to serve one’s country, and read their essays aloud to the crowd gathered in Bozarth-Fowler Gym.


A large crowd gathered Saturday morning for a wreath-laying and short presentation outside the Lampasas County Courthouse. In the photo, Jack Shelton, an Air Force veteran, speaks to the community about thanking and honoring veterans. 
DEREK MOY | DISPATCH RECORD A large crowd gathered Saturday morning for a wreath-laying and short presentation outside the Lampasas County Courthouse. In the photo, Jack Shelton, an Air Force veteran, speaks to the community about thanking and honoring veterans. DEREK MOY | DISPATCH RECORD “I’d like to let you know that on this day we all come together, as a family, as a school and as a community, to honor and thank you for everything you’ve done for the red, the white and the blue,” Katie read. “After all, [veterans] are the main reason we are freely standing here today.”

Zachary’s essay echoed the thoughts of his peer.

“Veterans are the hidden heroes who walk among us every day,” he had written. “We pass them unknowingly, unable to acknowledge just how much they have done for us. Without their sacrifice and courage, our most cherished freedoms and rights would go undefended from those in this world who would wish to take them away.”


During Lometa Independent School District’s Honor our Veterans program Friday, retired Lt. Col. Stephen Ruzicka spoke on what it takes to be a veteran and the importance of those few who defend every right Americans have. 
DEREK MOY | DISPATCH RECORD During Lometa Independent School District’s Honor our Veterans program Friday, retired Lt. Col. Stephen Ruzicka spoke on what it takes to be a veteran and the importance of those few who defend every right Americans have. DEREK MOY | DISPATCH RECORD KEMPNER CEREMONY

Kempner residents joined with the 62nd Engineer Battalion – the city’s partner from Fort Hood – to honor veterans in a ceremony Saturday at Sylvia Tucker Memorial Park.

The Veterans Day observance took place at 11 a.m. – to commemorate when the World War I armistice took effect on Nov. 11, 1918. The United States celebrated Armistice Day for many years until the observance became Veterans Day – a day to celebrate all who have served the United States in the armed forces.

During the ceremony Saturday in Kempner, soldiers from the 62nd Engineer Battalion posted and retired the colors, and the battalion’s commander, Lt. Col. Chad Caldwell, offered the keynote address.

Veterans Day, Caldwell said, is a time to celebrate “all those who served and continue to serve our nation with honor and distinction.” The annual observance, he said, recognizes veterans for their devotion, patriotism and sacrifice on behalf of the entire United States.

“It is their loyalty to our country, their courage that have made us what we are today – what we’ve been for more than two centuries – the land of the free, the home of the brave,” Caldwell said.

The officer also thanked military families for their sacrifices.

Noting the United States has been at war more than 16 years, Caldwell said the nation has the largest population of young veterans since the Vietnam War. About 120,000 soldiers make the transition out of the Army each year, Caldwell said.

As a result, he emphasized the importance of successfully reintegrating veterans into civilian life and finding them employment that uses the skills they developed in the military.

Caldwell also noted a connection he sees between veterans’ care and the longterm strength of the Army.

“Potential future soldiers observe how we [take] care of our veterans, and as they consider serving themselves, our ability to man the all-voluntary Army of the future depends partly on our support of today’s veterans,” Caldwell said.

One way the Army cares for veterans, the officer said, is through its Soldier for Life program, which he said offers health, education and employment resources for veterans and their families.

“Coalitions of privatesector employers are stepping up to hire veterans and their spouses,” Caldwell said, “but still much remains to be done to enhance access to such resources and support.”

The lieutenant colonel added that veterans have much to offer to the nation even after their military service has ended.

“Soldiers live by the Army values of loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage,” Caldwell said. “They do not leave behind their values and skills when they take off their uniforms for the last time and transition into civilian life.”

Those values and aptitudes, Caldwell said, enable veterans to succeed in a variety of professions and serve their communities.

The lieutenant colonel concluded by urging the public to support veterans – who he said serve as the inspiration for future military service members.

“All Americans should have a responsibility to ensure the service and sacrifices of all our veterans are not overlooked or forgotten,” he said. “They also help as they connect the public to the Army and inspire the next generation to serve.”

WREATH-LAYING

At the county courthouse Saturday morning, veterans and area residents gathered to lay a wreath on the Veterans Monument while Lampasas High School senior Savannah Cook played “Taps.”

Leo Perkins, a former prisoner of war who served in the Army Air Corps, laid the wreath at the memorial.

Jack Shelton, a retired Air Force veteran, spoke on the importance of honoring the country’s veterans as they honor the U.S. by taking an oath to serve.

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