By AMANDA KIMBLE
ERATH COUNTY (May 24, 2016) – LCPL Shawn P. Hefner, Operation Enduring Freedom; SSG Claudie Lee Cox and PFC Lowell Ray Hanson, Vietnam War; John Fielding Higgs, PFC Harold M. Massey, CPL Robert H. McKinney and PFCT Willie Tate, Jr., WWII; Ammon Turnbow, WWI.
Their names are just a handful of many area soldiers who paid the ultimate sacrifice for their country and fellow Americans. They were casualties of war.
Wars, conflicts and peacekeeping missions with American involvement date back prior to the American Revolution, most often fought on foreign soil. There are some rarely mentioned in the tomes of history and others that will never be forgotten – World War I and II, Korean War, Vietnam, the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.
These are the reasons why Memorial Day is celebrated. It’s not about trips to the lake, backyard barbecues or a respite from the daily grind. Observed the last Monday in May, Memorial Day is a designated day of remembrance honoring the men and women who have died serving the United States and their surviving brothers and sisters in arms.
The early traditions – still observed by many Americans – included the decorating of graves of soldiers killed in action. For that reason, the observance was initially called Decoration Day. Loved ones and supporters adorned tombstones with flowers, wreaths and flags. It was first widely observed on May to commemorate Civil War soldiers killed in battle.
“It’s not just about those who have passed away,” Burton Smith, commander of Turnbow-Higgs American Legion Post 240 in Stephenville, said.
Smith, a retired Navy SEAL, said the American Legion appreciates the strong support local residents continue to show military veterans on Memorial Day, Veterans Day and throughout the year.
In Erath County, a tradition that predates the formation of Post 240 continues Monday when the Legion hosts its Memorial Day Ceremony. The event will take place at American Legion Veterans Field of Honor at West End Cemetery, located at the intersection of Washington Street and Lillian Street across from Tarleton State University.
Smith explained the importance of the program.
“Everyone has a family members who served – or are serving – in the military,” he said, adding that he expects this year’s observance to welcome several veterans who served in the Global War on Terrorism. “We are starting to see a trend of younger veterans getting involved (with the American Legion).”
The program will include patriotic music, singing of the National Anthem, laying of the wreath, a rifle salute and the playing of ‘Taps’ by Turnbow-Higgs American Legion Honor Guard.
Dr. Matthew Hallgarth, retired Air Force officer and veteran of the Bosnia/Kosovo war and associate professor of philosophy and religious studies at Tarleton State University will serve as guest speaker.
The program is expected to span 30-45 minutes, and seating for 50 will be available.