WAXAHACHIE

Our nation’s heroes will be honored for their sacrifices and contributions in the service of the country on Saturday. The 18th annual 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.

“The emphasis of the ceremony is about honoring our veterans past and present. I want to stress that is not just for our World War II veterans, but for all who have served,” co-organizer Perry Giles said “You do not need to be a veteran to attend. I know a lot of people who are not veterans that come each year to show their support.”

Giles stated he wants to encourage younger veterans to attend so that their service can be honored and recognized.

Radio personality Ken Roberts, of KBEC 1390 AM and 99.1 FM, 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,” “Armed Forces Medley,” 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.

Giles stated there will be no political speeches at the event, as it is only about recognizing men and women who have served.

Retired Army Chaplain Lt. Col. Henry Drozd will address the crowd. Drozd, who is an Ennis native, will do the benediction for the ceremony.

Giles stated that the ceremony is all about honoring the veterans that are present. The veterans ceremony has grown over the years, as it first started with the completion of the 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 recalled. “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 and noted he expects about 1,000 people to attend.

Following the ceremony and 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 veterans memorial located at the civic center.

“I have heard a lot of them say this is unlike any program or ceremony that they have ever attended. I have several veterans tell me that. They have been to ceremonies across the country and haven’t seen anything like this,” Giles said. “This is a good thing to bring your kids and grandkids to see what patriotism is about. I want to encourage people to come who have not seen it.”

Later on Saturday, in a separate event, military living historians will take 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.

The mock battle between the two groups will take place at about 3:30 p.m. in downtown. Both groups will set up camps on Friday afternoon. A meet and greet will take place at the Ellis County Museum and there will be opportunities to tour both camps and the Ellis County Courthouse.

The Waxahachie Civic Center is located at 2000 Civic Center Lane in Waxahachie. Both events are free for the public to attend.