The men and women who have served in the U.S. military will be honored this Saturday. The 15th annual Ellis County Veterans Appreciation Day will start at 10 a.m. and will be held at the Waxahachie Civic Center.
The event is hosted in the main ballroom of the civic center. Prior to the event, the Classic Swing Band will play at 9:30 a.m. along with a slideshow of photographs. It is expected that 800-1,000 people will be in attendance.
Radio personality Ken Roberts, of KBEC 1390, will serve as master of ceremonies. The Boy Scout color guard will present the colors to start the ceremony. A singing of the National Anthem will be performed by the Reveille Sisters once the colors are posted. The ceremony will feature a variety of patriotic music with songs such as “God Bless America” and “God Bless the USA. ”
“We get letters every year from people that we don’t even know. I had one last year. He is a Vietnam veteran and had a military career. He said 'I've been to ceremonies and programs all over the country. I have never been to anything that even comes close to this,’” Co-event organizer Perry Giles said. “He went on to talk about how he felt more appreciated and loved than he had ever been since the war ended.”
Each of the five branches of military will be recognized with the playing of their respective official service songs. Veterans from each conflict from World War II to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq will be also recognized.
Giles said his favorite part of the ceremony is when the veterans stand to be recognized. "Hearing the applause coming from the audience is very moving because many of the veterans have not received that type of recognition before," Giles said.
The service of Waxahachie resident James Lewis will be honored at the ceremony on Saturday as well. Lewis served in the Army Air Corps on a B-24 bomber as a flight engineer and top turret gunner. Lewis' bomber was shot down over France and he had to bail out. He and crew were picked up by the French resistance and joined with them. Lewis lost his life trying to reconnect with American forces.
Co-event organizer David Hudgins said the motivation to put this event together every year is to let brave individuals know they are appreciated for the military service they provided.
“We have veterans tell us, especially World War II veterans, that when they got back from the service, you see the ticker-tape parades in New York, but back here there was no parade. There was no pat on the back or nothing. No one ever said thank you,” Hudgins said. “Then, of course, you know what happened to our Vietnam veterans. They were spit on and everything. Korea was just kind of forgotten. I think that they are just thankful that somebody has said thank you for what you did. “
The event will also feature a photo slide show tribute to veterans who were killed in combat from Ellis County.
Hudgins said when you see a name and face, it makes the person’s life more personal.
“A lot of them were just out of high school and you see that face and know that they didn’t come back,” Hudgins said. “You think about that person how they gave their life for you and the freedoms you have. To me it just reminds you of what you have and who gave their life so you could have it. “
A wreath will lay at the front of the main ballroom followed by a playing of the bagpipes. The ceremony will conclude with a flyover of vintage military aircraft from the Commemorative Air Force, weather permitting. The flyover will take place over the veterans’ memorial located in front of the civic center. A second wreath will be placed at the veterans’ memorial, which will be followed by a gun salute from Troopers with the Texas Department of Public Safety and a playing of “Taps.”
Giles said the ceremony is put on each year through the efforts of many people to honor these men and women. The ceremony is fund strictly by donations. The event is free and open to the public and is anticipated to be over by about 11:40 a.m.
“We want to encourage people to come. Tell a veteran. Bring a veteran,” Giles said. “Even if you're not a veteran come and show your support for the veterans, we would like to fill the chairs up.”
Later, on Saturday, in a separate event, military reactors will be taking over the downtown area around the historic Ellis County Courthouse on Main Street. They will be dressed in period Word War II uniforms from both allied and axis countries.
According to the Waxahachie Chamber of Commerce’s website, events begin Friday afternoon at about 1 p.m. Actors will arrive to set up camps around the MKT train depot on Rogers Street. At 6 p.m. an Oktoberfest will be held at the College Street Restaurant and Pub.
Activities start at 8 a.m. Saturday with Black Market military vendors, various demonstrations and displays. A mock Hollywood style battle for the train depot will start at about 3:30 p.m.
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