Ellis County honored those who have sacrificied their time and lives for our country Saturday morning.
Residents packed the Waxahachie Civic Center to pay tribute to these service members during the 13th annual Veterans Appreciation Day Ceremony.
Current and former members representing every branch of America’s armed forces filled the auditorium. Some wore their uniform. Some wore service hats or vests filled with unit patches along with the POW/MIA insignia in honor of those left behind from World War II veterans to present-day members of the military, there was a visible connection that transcended time, geography or branch of service.
“Semper Fortis – always brave.”
The words didn’t need to be spoken to be heard and understood.
But they were echoed in the appreciation expressed by each member of the community in attendance.
“This is an awesome crowd that is out here today. I think that it gets larger and larger each year to honor our veterans. I think it shows them how special they are,” Martha Hice said with emotion in her voice. “My husband J.L. is a veteran. He is totally disabled and can no longer come, but I come to stand up for him. I appreciate all of our veterans, and I love my husband for what he did. I come to honor him.”
Opening the ceremony was a presentation of the colors by the Boy Scouts and Troopers with the Texas DPS. Following the presentation the audience was entertained with a musical selection of “Tennessee Waltz” and “American Solider.”
Following the two songs, MC Ken Roberts asked the audience that during the playing of the “Armed Forces Medley” medley veterans stand and be recognized when their branch’s song was played.
During the ceremony, veterans who took part in the D-Day invasion of Normandy, France during World War II were highlighted. The 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings that took place on June 6, 1944 will be in 2014.
Lt. Col. Henry Drozd spoke to the audience about the invasion, saying one of the elements of the invasion was the role of Army Air Force pilots and the airborne troops played in helping to secure key positions from the Germans.
Veterans who took part in the invasion were asked to stand and be recognized for their contribution.
Each conflict — from World War II to Iraq and Afghanistan — was recognized and veterans were asked to stand during a slideshow presentation.
When Vietnam veterans were recognized, Roberts told the audience that while the past can’t be undone, “we have an opportunity to make it right today,” he said, referring to the negative treatment they received after coming home. The audience applauded.
The service of Joel Ramirez was also recognized during a special tribute. Ramirez, who grew up in Waxahachie, was killed in action in 2011 while serving with the Army in Minroz, Afghanistan. His family, along with members of the Army, placed a special wreath in his honor in front of the auditorium.
DPS Troopers performed a 21 gun salute, which was followed by a playing of “Taps” by DPS Sgt. Robert Bernard.
Navy veteran Bob Garrett said this ceremony is a great way for residents of Ellis County to express their appreciation to those who served our country in the armed forces.
“There are a lot of different things that veterans go through. Not everybody comes back with a visible wound — but they all come back with wounds when they have been in war,” Garrett said. “I think that this (ceremony) helps to support them.”
World War II Navy veteran Bob Osborne said he loved the ceremony and enjoyed every part of it, adding the ceremony helps to remember the contributions of so many.
“I was in from 1943 -1946. They took me out of high school. I was in my senior year and they said ‘come on.’ I had to go and I stayed in ‘till the war was over,” Osborne said. “I went from one end to the other and made all the major islands (during the battle for the Pacific). I lost a couple of good friends in the war, some were my neighbors.”
Osborne served aboard the USS Chester, which saw service at Iwo Jima, Saipan, Tinian and Aleutian Islands. The Chester supported the landing troops with an artillery bombardment. Osborne said after providing fire support during one of the battles he remembers standing underneath the eight inch guns and hearing shrapnel bounce off of them.
Marine Jose Constancio, of Waxahachie, attended the ceremony for his first time and was honored.
“I thought it was absolutely amazing. Half the time I just got this feeling in my stomach that made me feel even better about what I am doing,” Constancio said. “Every year that I am home I will definitely attend again.”