Mineral Wells Index, Mineral Wells, TX

November 12, 2013

Salute to Veterans

Mineral Wells Index

— Photos by LIBBY CLUETT | Story by CLINT FOSTER

It was the perfect day to celebrate America. The weather was a sunny and pleasant Monday morning, as thousands packed Ram Stadium to honor United States’ military veterans of the past, present and future in the 31st Annual Veterans Day program. The reds and whites of the football stadium, against the gorgeous blue Texas sky, set the ultimate scene to honor America’s heroes: Ram Stadium was a living American flag.

Students from every Mineral Wells ISD school, as well as Graford ISD and many from the community joined with past and present city, county and state elected officials and representatives from local and statewide chapters of the American Legion to form a multi-generational group, united to salute numerous veterans both in attendance and elsewhere.

American Legion Auxiliary Finance Chair Lynda Horton-Turk helped orchestrate the program this year with the help of MWISD. She said she felt very fortunate to be able to help provide the community with the ceremony for a 31st year.

“I think it’s wonderful that people come out from our community to pay respect to our veterans,” she said. “Mineral Wells, being the old home of Fort Wolters, has lots of retired military here and lots of veterans that served our country. It’s important to teach our children patriotism and service to our country. It’s great for our children to know what Veterans Day stands for.”

The Honorable Judge Jerry Ray was Master of Ceremonies for the event. He said he has never missed a single Veterans Day program after 31 years and, therefore, the ceremony holds a special place in his heart.

“This is generally recognized as one of the best, if not the best, Veterans Day celebration in this part of Texas,” he said. “I think it serves really a two-fold purpose: First and foremost, to honor the veterans. We’re blessed to live in this country and we owe them a great debt of gratitude.

Second, is to start kids young. To teach them about patriotism, respect for the flag, honoring their country and being proud to be an American.”

With so many schools in attendance, local youth got the opportunity to devote some of their class time to honoring veterans and many even performed. The Mineral Wells High School Marching Band played the National Anthem as members of MWHS FFA presented the colors before a vintage T-6 aircraft from the Eagle Flying Museum flew over the crowd to kick off the event.

Performing throughout the program were the Travis Elementary School Cadets, Lamar Elementary Little Troopers, Mineral Wells Junior High Choir, Houston Elementary (dancing to the “Veterans Day Stomp”), MWHS Choir and the Wranglerette Drill Team.

Governor Rick Perry issued a proclamation that event co-chair Karyn Bullock read aloud to the crowd. Perry thanked veterans and acknowledged their vital importance to the American way of life saying, “Old glory flies high and our nation remains free because of their devotion.”

Retired Col. Bryan Ellis served as the guest speaker. The Mineral Wells native and 1975 MWHS graduate spoke at length about the importance of growing up in Mineral Wells and the impact his hometown had on his life. A 28-year veteran of the U.S. Army, who participated in numerous operations and has been decorated with multiple medals and honors, he offered two poignant stories about two of his veteran friends and their depth of character and service.

To cap off the event, Lorraine Crutcher led the stadium in singing “This Land is Your Land” before the MWHS Student Council released a swarm of red, white and blue balloons. An ensuing rendition of “Taps” by two MWHS Band trumpeters, followed by the recovery of the colors, provided the perfect juxtaposition for the event: a celebration of American veterans and their service, but also a somber reminder of the sacrifices made by them and their families.

The program appeared to be well received by the elected officials and all those in the stands. State Rep. Jim Keffer (R-Eastland) mentioned that it was possibly the best Veterans Day program he had been to.

In his comments to the Index, Mayor Mike Allen perhaps gave the best representation of Veterans Day’s significance and the value of Mineral Wells’ storied celebration. As a former veteran himself, he said he has a deep understanding of its value.

“There are thousands of U.S. citizens that gave their lives and were willing to give their lives to make this country what it is,” he said. “To recognize that every year, and allow children to recognize that, makes this country strong.”

A spirit of community patriotism is alive and well in Mineral Wells, Texas. Here, veterans should know they are respected and cherished. In the words of American Legion Post 75:

“Though you may no longer wear the uniform, we know you’re always on call to serve and protect the freedom and security of the United States of America.”