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Salute to veterans keeps growing

By Carolyn B. Edwards BCC Staff Writer

For the ninth year, Bandera American Legion Post 157 hosted Bandera Honors Veterans in Bandera. Every year, the celebration, which gives residents and visitors a chance to meet with and thank local veterans, continues to grow.
The brain child of two local veterans, former Mayor Horst Pallaske and Fidel Ramirez, this year's event involved a broad range of participants from the local area.
Master of Ceremonies Marshall Considine welcomed the crowd on the courthouse lawn and representatives of the Bandera High School FFA presented the colors. Jessica Browning's soaring notes of the National Anthem held everyone enthralled.
The invocation and the closing prayer were led by Bill Bowie, an Air Force veteran from Pipe Creek.
Considine, retired from the Marine Corps, noted that a successful event always relies on lots of support, including over 40 local businesses that contributed to the cause, County Commissioners Court, the FFA, local scout groups and families who told the stories of their military history with displays on tables scattered in front of the courthouse. Sid's Main Street Barbecue catered the lunch, generously subsidized by Wayne Wright, attorney. "I'm donating to the Warrior and Family Support Center at Fort Sam Houston for every plate of BBQ sold," said Wright. "That's where young veterans with metal rods for arms and legs and disfiguring burns from roadside bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan put their lives back together, bonding with their families and planning for life after the military. They may be off the front lines, but they are still in a tough fight."
Businessman James McGroarty received a plaque of special recognition for the support he and the 11th Street Cowboy Bar offered for a fundraiser for Bandera Honors Veterans. "We were hoping to sell a few hamburgers to raise a little money. He went above and beyond," said Considine, "raising thousands of dollars for the cause."
Special honorees this year were veterans of World War II, seated in a place of honor for the ceremony and placed in jeeps for the parade that followed.
County Judge Richard Evans commented on these veterans, "They came back. They didn't whine. They didn't complain. They went to work and made America the world's greatest nation."
Evans concluded by saying to those veterans, "if we can follow your example, America will be OK."
Guest speaker for the event, Lt.Col. USMC (Ret.) Stephen Harris, noted that the date, Nov. 10, was the 237th birthday of the Marine Corps, in which he served for 31 years. The comment was warmly received by the numerous Marine veterans in the crowd.
Harris briefly outlined the military history of the United States as it is reflected in his own family's service, from the American Revolution to today. Harris regretted that the percentage of the population that has served, or is serving, in the Armed Forces, has dropped significantly.
Less than 1%
"Less than one percent of the American population has served in the Armed Forces of the United States. ...Surprisingly, if not astonishingly, the number of individuals who serve or have served our nation as our front-line defenders during the last decade is just one-ninth of the population group that served during World War II. What this translates to mean is that there is a growing chasm between those who have served in the Armed Forces of the United States and the broader civilian population," Harris said.
"I firmly believe this doesn't bode well for the broader civilian population group fully appreciating the hardship and sacrifices required of the American military service member that have sworn an allegiance to 'support and defend the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.'"
Harris continued, "That simply means our civilian leaders and the broader civilian population are disconnected from those who would go in harms way to fight our country's wars and conflicts. Seemingly by not having a personal or family connection, the consequences of employing our military desensitizes the civilian leadership and broader population as a general rule."
Harris made clear he was not advocating a renewal of the draft, but "a greater collective public involvement and activism with our elected officials when it comes to committing our Armed Forces to war. We cannot be desensitized to the hardships, sacrifices and ultimately the loss of young people's lives in the pursuit of defending our way of life and interests abroad."
He encouraged his listeners to be more active in communicating with their elected officials "whenever there is a potential to commit our national 'treasure'...our young men and women in uniform to war."
Bandera County is home to 3,218 American veterans. According to the US Census, one in every six people in the county of 20,538 has served in the military.