The lives, contributions, and sacrifices of the nation’s veterans will once again be honored this Saturday.

The Ellis County Veterans Ceremony starts at 10 a.m. at the Waxahachie Civic Center in the main ballroom.

Before the event, the Classic Swing Band will play at 9:30 a.m. Veterans and members of the public from both Ellis County and the surrounding areas are encouraged to attend this event.

“This is the 17th year to do this, and we are trying to make a special effort to get younger veterans to come because the War on Terror is the longest war in United States history,” co-organizer Perry Giles said. “We are just putting out the invitation to get younger veterans to come because they tend to think what we are doing is for the old guys. We have got veterans now that are 21, 22, and 23 years old.”

Radio personality Ken Roberts, of KBEC 1390, will serve as master of ceremonies. The Reveille Sisters will sing the National Anthem, which will be followed by the pledge of allegiance. The ceremony will feature a variety of patriotic music with songs such as “God Bless America,” “American Soldier,” and “God Bless the USA.”

Each of the five branches of the military will be recognized with the playing of their respective service songs. Veterans from each conflict from World War II to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq will be recognized.

Retired Army Chaplain Lt. Col. Henry Drozd will address the crowd. Drozd, who is an Ennis native, will speak about the service members from Ellis County that lost their lives in the line of duty and the sacrifice made by the county. There will also be a short video tribute to Bob Hope and his work with the USO. In 1997 Congress named Hope an honorary veteran.

Giles stated that the ceremony is all about honoring the veterans that are present. Over the years the veterans ceremony has grown. It first started with the completion of the veterans’ memorial at the Waxahachie Civic Center.

“When we built the monument it was just a last minute thing to have some sort of ceremony. We had the monument unveiling on Nov. 11, 2000. There were probably about 900 people there, two congressmen, and a general. It was all speeches, one speech right after another,” Giles remembered. “I saw some Vietnam veterans there that were choked up and I asked one of them what was wrong. He said, ‘I never saw so many people at a veterans program.’ We decided maybe we should do this again next year. That is kind of where it started.”

Giles advises people to arrive early because attendance is expected to range from 1,200 – 1,500 people.

Following the ceremony, weather permitting, there will be a wreath laying, a gun salute by the Texas Department of Public Safety, a flyover of military aircraft, and a playing of “Taps” at the veteran’s memorial located at the civic center.

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 World War II uniforms from both allied and axis countries.

According to Waxahachie Veterans Weekend — WWII weekend — Victory in Europe Facebook page, 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 located at 210 N. College St. in downtown Waxahachie. Activities start at 8 a.m. on Saturday with Black Market vendors, various demonstrations, and displays. A mock Hollywood-style battle for the train depot will start at about 3:30 p.m.

The Waxahachie Civic Center is located at 2000 Civic Center Lane in Waxahachie.