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2013-05-23

Honoring those who didn't make it home

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

In his history "Henry V," playwright William Shakespeare offered the penultimate quote about warfare and the relationships forged during battle and its aftermath. When faced with overwhelming odds just before the decisive Battle of Agincourt, King Henry rallied his troops with the words, "... we few, we happy few, we band of brothers. For he today that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother ..."

In the same spirit, members of American Legion Post 157 in Bandera will host a Memorial Day ceremony, beginning at 1 pm, Monday, May 27, on the front lawn of the Bandera County Courthouse. The ceremony will honor their fallen comrades in arms - the band of brothers.

Speaker Charlie Baker, who also serves as post commander, will offer a commentary on "bringing Memorial Day back to Bandera County."
He will chronicle the county's rich history of serving the United States in times of war. "When I was a student in Medina in 1963, our civics teacher asked us how many World War II and Korean veterans lived in the county. At that time, none of us students knew anything, but we soon found out," Baker recalled.

As it turned out there were quite a few, including Tommy Roufe, who was the first Bandera County man drafted to fight in WWII. "He was killed in Italy six months after D-Day," Baker said.

Other local notables included an Ag teacher who served as a pilot in the China-Burma Theater, another who was a tank commander in the North Africa campaign and a P-51 pilot.

"Bandera also had Clifton "Bulldog" Reed and a buddy who were among the Marines of the 3rd Division who landed on Iwo Jima," Baker said.
He added that since then, a book has been published listing all Bandera County residents who fought in wars from the Civil War to Vietnam. The book is now available in the library.

Clearly proud of Bandera County residents who stepped up to serve their country during times of war, Baker also takes great pride in the services Legion Post 157 provides for veterans.

"The American Legion is open weekdays from 9 am until 3 pm and we invite any veteran who needs assistance to drop by," he said. Baker and his colleagues gladly assist veterans fill out the paperwork needed to navigate through the labyrinth of the Veterans Administration. "We'll help any vet who's having a problem filling out the paperwork or filing a claim," Baker said.

There's also assistance for those who need transportation to the VA in Kerrville or San Antonio. As Baker explained, "We have a telephone number that veterans can call and schedule to van."

The post also provides applications for the annual Honor Flight that free-of-charge transports WWII veterans to Washington, DC for tours of the monuments. Currently, one member of Post 157 is on the list for the next tour.

Post members also work with scout troops in Bandera and Medina. "Members of Boy Scout Troop 1155 in Medina serve as the Junior Color Guard," Baker said proudly.

As proud as he is of the post's sponsored programs, he's equally as proud of the caliber of the membership of Legion Post 157. "We now have 120 members and we picked up one at bingo the other night." Members include retired colonels from the Marine Corps and air force with the active duty roster comprised of a Navy captain and a US Army colonel and sergeant major.

"We're also the only post in Texas with four brothers," Baker said. The siblings would, of course, be the Baker Boys. Charlie, Raymond and Clay all served with the Marine Corps in Vietnam, and Roger saw duty with the Army National Guard in Desert Storm. Additionally, Baker's wife, Pam, serves as president of the auxiliary.

"Since this post was established in 1949, membership has been open to any veteran who has served one day on active duty in time of war," Baker said. "We think every area veteran should become a member. That way they'll know exactly what benefits they're entitled to."

Baker will surely be on the lookout for new members during the Memorial Day ceremony next Monday, May 27.

"Please let everyone know that Memorial Day is a reverential service," Baker urged. "Poppies commemorate those who died in service to their county. During Veterans Day in November, we celebrate the guys who made it back alive."

Pictured: American Legion Post 157 Commander Charlie Baker conferred with Pat Downing of the American Legion and Auxiliary during the fundraiser for the Bandera Honors Veterans committee held Saturday, May 18, at the 11th Street Cowboy Bar.