Veterans representing conflicts from Word War II to the current war in Afghanistan were honored with a tribute dinner and program Sunday Evening in Midlothian.
The dinner, held at the Midlothian Conference Center, was the third annual event to recognize veterans and their families from Midlothian and surrounding areas.
“We’re expecting close to 500 guests tonight that include retired military, past service veterans and current military,” said Gina Moore, the city’s recreation coordinator. “While it is mainly to honor veterans from Midlothian, we will also have several from Ovilla, Maypearl, Venus and other surrounding communities.”
The opening set the tone of the tribute with a full military presentation of the colors. The flags of the United States and state of Texas were posted by the Irving High School Marine Corps Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps.
“It is my honor and a privilege to speak to you tonight. We want to express our appreciation to each of you for your service to our country. We want to thank you for protecting our freedom,” said Midlothian Mayor Bill Houston. “We want to thank you for your service to our country.”
Houston then recognized the veterans who took part in each of the conflicts during the last 60 years.
This year’s tribute had two guest speakers.
World War II Marine veteran Charles Arnold along with Iraq War veteran Chief Warrant Officer James Hume each told of their experiences in the armed forces.
Arnold described his decision to join with his father’s permission at the age of 17.
“Several friends and I decided that we wanted or sign up. In 1942, I joined and I was the only Texan in my battalion,” Arnold said.
One of the early honors Arnold experienced was with his platoon members meeting President Franklin Roosevelt and the first lady Eleanor Roosevelt.
“The president and the first lady reviewed a parade we participated in while in San Diego. At that review, Roosevelt told us this war would be over in one year and our troops would be coming home,” Arnold said.
Arnold related one of his favorite memories of his Marine career.
“I had one of the best colonel’s in the Marines. When I had been in the South Pacific for a year, I told the colonel it was time to go home. Colonel asked how did I figure that? Well, I told him President Roosevelt said we would be coming home in a year. The colonel responded that the President isn’t running this war, I am.”
During his military career Arnold received two Marine Corps Medals of Honor, Pacific Campaign ribbon with two battle stars, America Campaign ribbon, World War II ribbon and the Good Conduct ribbon. Since being discharged form active duty, he has also been recognized with several awards.
Hume spoke of his service in the military.
“My father was in the Air Force and that inspired me to join the service,” Hume said.
Hume’s career included 26-1/2 years in the Marines and 9-1/2 years in the Army reserves. He served two combat tours; one in the Persian Gulf and the second in the Iraq War.
Awards he has received include the Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Navy Commendation Medal, The National Defense Service Medal and numerous other service ribbons and awards.
“I was there at the beginning of the Persian Gulf assault. I remember the airplanes taking off. They looked like a bunch of fire flies streaming across the sky,” Hume said.
Another memory he shared was an encounter with an enemy mechanized unit that confronted his group. “They were right in front of us,” Hume said.
“As a vet, it is my responsibility to help other veterans in need. It is also my responsibility to help find future people to serve to be ready to fight for our freedom. It is important the stories of these veterans be told to the younger generations to help inspire them to fill the shoes of retiring veterans,” Hume said.
The program closed with a video slide show of many of the veterans attending and some who have passed away. The last slide was of Thomas “Sonny” Murray, a veteran and one of the founders of the city’s annual tribute to veterans.
Tone Sanders came to the podium to remember Murray and closed the tribute by quoting Murray saying, “Lord. Please bless the men and women who have protected our country.” Sanders went on to say, “It was Murray’s insistence to keep this tradition going to recognize our veterans.”