ATHENS — Active military members and those who served in the U.S. Armed Forces were hailed for their sacrifice and dedication Monday during a Henderson County Veterans Memorial dedication event.
The event, which took place at the East Texas Arboretum, was a time of prayer, patriotism, music, speakers and recognition.
Among other things, the dedication featured the posting of the colors; the Pledge of Allegiance; “The Star-Spangled Banner;” an Armed Forces medley sung by the Trinity Valley Community College choir; other patriotic music from members of the Athens and Brownsboro high school bands; a song from Jon Rutherford; and taps.
Past letters and emails from military members were shared, and speakers paid tribute to active military members and veterans.
State Rep. Lance Gooden said the courage of veterans allowed the United States to flourish — a debt that cannot be repaid with a ceremony or parade. He went on to say that veterans bring skills to the workforce and community when they return home, “have served with distinction,” and inspire by example. Henderson County Judge Richard Sanders thanked those who were involved with establishing the memorial, as well as those who helped organize Monday’s dedication.
As he looked at the names on the memorial, he said he had pride and feels blessed to live in America.
“On this Veterans Day, as we honor veterans who have served and the new generation fighting for our freedom today, we should be mindful of the sacrifices of these men and women and (the) families,” Sanders said.
He also referenced a quote by President Calvin Coolidge: “The nation which forgets its defenders will be itself forgotten.”
Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples said Henderson County residents coming together for Monday’s event “says that as a community, we will never forget the cost of service,” and reminds students “to be citizenship ready.”
The memorial includes red brick curved walls as well as an eagle sculpture, which overlooks a plaza, said Bob McDonald, arboretum board member.
Arboretum board president Peggy Rhodes said between 9,000 and 10,000 names are listed on the memorial. On the arboretum website, she calls it “a breathtaking tribute to all who have served and sacrificed from Henderson County in all wars of record.”
McDonald said the idea for the monument came from decorated World War II veteran Frank Denius.
One of the most difficult tasks, he said, was the names. A team of volunteers formed to do research, and a public campaign was initiated.
On Monday, he recognized those who helped bring the memorial to completion and thanked donors and businesses that contributed to its construction.
“There’s a lot of excitement about the wall …” Ms. Rhodes said. “I feel that it is a great source of pride.”
Attendees also shared positive thoughts. Retired U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Billy Buford, 69, said he believes it’s good that young people were able to come on Monday, and encouraged returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan to stay involved in different veteran organizations.
Attendee Joe Mills, 75, said after recently spending time outside the country, he developed a new appreciation for how blessed people are in America.
“We have something worth fighting for,” he said.
And it was a special day for attendee Mary Ann Quattlebaum, whose family members’ names are on the monument.
Mrs. Quattlebaum, who is in her 60s, said the monument gives her family members the recognition they deserve.
“It’s a place to come and see their names and remember them,” she said.
Mrs. Quattlebaum’s daughter, Erin Quattlebaum, 37, said it means her family members won’t be forgotten, and another attendee, Darlene Duncan, 55, said the wall is a way to teach children about war and freedom.