Joy Hagg, of Hideaway, lost her husband, A.L. Hagg, a little more than a year ago, but she had a chance Friday to honor him and other members of the American military.
Event organizer and Life Enrichment Specialist Linda Reed said it’s important each year to pause and reflect on the important roles veterans past and present play in our lives.
“Our perimeter is covered very well today with the history of all of you,” she said. “I appreciate that very much, as a citizen and as a veteran.”
A few rows up from Mrs. Hagg, Arp dad Micheal Hitt was thinking about his two sons, Army Sgt. Chad Allan Hitt and pilot Christopher Reed Hitt.
Chad, married with a month-old daughter, had three deployments to Afghanistan; Chris served four years in the Navy before joining the Army.
“They are both my heroes,” the elder Hitt said. “There are not a lot of daddies who can say their children are their heroes, but I can. You talk to them both and they say the same thing — ‘It’s my job.’”
Hitt and wife, Kelly, were presented Friday with the Blue Star Flag, a special banner for parents whose children are serving in the military, presented by American Legion Post 474 Commander Steve Faught.
Friday’s gathering included an American Legion presentation of a prisoner of war chair cover and wreath of honor.
Keynote speaker Army Gen. James “Red” Brown said he had been in Mississippi the day before for a midnight sendoff of about 350 young men and women to Afghanistan.
To the veterans present Friday, he said, “We are blessed by your service.”
Veterans of each branch of the military were honored with cheers and applause.
Audience member Sgt. Dennis Hunter, who completed three tours of duty in Afghanistan, was recognized with enthusiastic clapping.
State officials also took note of the occasion, the first of what will likely be many ceremonies in the new facility that welcomed its first resident in February.
U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Tyler; U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas; and Texas General Land Office Commissioner Jerry Patterson sent letters of appreciation.
Special guests included members of the International ALERT Academy and John Tyler High School Jr. ROTC Cadets.
Chaplain Randy Parker said he recently lost his father, a veteran of World War II and Korea.
“Today we have the least number of veterans we’ve ever had in this country, about 21 million,” he said. “We sincerely appreciate their selflessness and sacrifice.”
Mrs. Hagg, a longtime member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, agreed.
She and other group members helped create a special memory garden for the veterans’ home, a place for gathering and reflecting.
Upon her Friday return, she found benefit and comfort in the efforts.
“I’m happy to have been a part of it,” she said.