Sincere salute to veterans: A host of programs honored Bosque County veterans; Bayless receives 2021 DAR Distinguished Citizen Medal and Quilt of Honor in a tribute to service before self
Between the War for Independence, Operation Iraqi Freedom and the Global War on Terrorism, American men and women have paid a high price for the nation's freedom, selflessly sacrificing life or limb, answering the call to duty. Veterans Day on November 11 is the day in memory of many, and in honor of all whom served in active military service, and in Bosque County several schools and civic organizations honored their veterans.
On Wednesday afternoon, people gathered in the Clifton Independent School District Performance Art Center for the annual Bosque River Valley Chapter of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution Veterans Day Salute. There were veterans and/or family members present of each war arena, who were all requested to stand when DAR Honorary Regent Sue Fielden named the era.
Interestingly, there was one Korean War veteran present. In 1950, the North Korean invasion into South Korea began the Korean War, which saw extensive U.S.-led United Nations intervention in support of the South. If the veteran was 18 at that time, it would make him or her 90 years of age, at least.
In her welcome, Fielden stressed that no one desires peace more than a soldier and their families. And she too stressed the need to teach the next generations about veterans and their invaluable service to the nation. Consequently, Bosque County schools do a commendable job in having Veterans’ Day programs to honor those who served.
Posting of the Colors by the Brazos Valley Sons of the American Revolution Color Guard in period dress, the presenting of the military branch banners and meaningful, patriotic music played an important part of the ceremony honoring the county’s veterans. The Clifton High School band performed the National Anthem, and the heartwarming Elementary School Honors Choir under direction of Beth Fry sang patriotic music.
Creative soul, story teller through song, and the Cranfills Gap Baptist Church’s pastor, Brian Barrett paid tribute to his navy pilot father, brothers and World War II tank unit member great-uncle Bob. “There are not a lot of times that you can come together to remember, celebrate and mourn all at once,” Barrett said.
This year’s 2022 DAR Distinguished Citizen Medal was presented to Ret. Col. Jeanne Bayless who served as an Air Force dentist for 24 years. The Air Force core values of “Integrity First, Service before Self and Excellence in all we do” emphasized every aspect of her military experience and career. The medal is presented to an individual, 18 years of age and older, or to groups that exemplify honor, service, courage, leadership, and patriotism. Bayless also received a Quilt of Valor from Debbie Stubbs at the ceremony.
Before she received her award and quilt, Bayless had a challenge to share, and honored her parents, both WWII veterans. She shared the virtues of the Greatest Generation -- the generation generally defined as people born from 1901 to 1927 – of which her parents were part, and with that challenged the country’s youth, the future leaders.
According to Bayless, the Greatest Generations’ actions were grounded and prioritized in their commitment to God, Family and Country. They were proud of their history and heritage. They obeyed and honored laws laid down in the Constitution and believed in defending them. They respected authority. They made the most things and had gratitude. They believed in earning an honest living, saving and being frugal. And they had faith to help them face hard times.
But Bayless also pointed out that the Greatest Generation knew their enemy in their foreign adversaries. Today the unseen, domestic enemies that seek to destroy and weaken the country from within are more difficult to counter – like the erosion of society, the disrespect for authority, the lack of gratitude and not upholding heritage and history.
She called everyone present to build upon the foundation they inherited from the Greatest Generation, and not to erode it. She wanted them to make a commitment to supporting the United States Constitution and upholding the devotion and dedication to making God, Family and Country the fundamentals that direct their actions also, like their predecessors did.
“I’ve got some wonderful outfits that I’m really attached to for one reason or another,” Bayless said. “But the one I’m most fond of, the one that I’m actually proud of, is the one I’m wearing here today. I am a United States veteran, and it is one of the most significant accomplishments in my life and one that I am very proud. I love this outfit because it not only represents an important part of my life, it represents much more. It stands for my family and all they held dear. It stands for sacrifice and honor. It stands for a nation and a way of life that I love and want to survive and prosper for generations to come.”
Part of the BRV DAR Veteran’s Salute was another program that strives to “remember, honor and teach.” A Marine Corps veteran himself, Clif Kennedy represented the Wreaths Across America program, encouraging people to join them in their mission to lay wreaths on veteran graves at the local cemeteries and to carry forth the WAA slogan “To Remember, Honor and Teach.” The National Wreaths Across America is Dec. 17 at 11 a.m. Donations to pay for the wreaths are sought, as are volunteers to lay the wreaths.
Kennedy used a quote by Former President Ronald Reagan, stressing the need to remember and honor those who fought for our freedoms and to pass that information on to future generations: “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”
The gratitude by the community and school is so appreciated,” Kennedy said. “Just remember our service and support and honor your veterans with these wreaths. It means a lot to families to see a wreath at their loved one’s headstone.”
Clifton native Kennedy graduated from Texas A&M University and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps in 2002. Following graduation of The Basic School and Infantry Officers' Course in Quantico, VA he was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 3d Marines as a Rifle Platoon Commander. He deployed in 2004 with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit to conduct training and security operations in Southeast Asia. His company trained as the MEU’s small boat raid element, conducting insertion missions from ship to shore. He and his platoon were selected to conduct joint urban warfare training in Guam for the Japanese Ground Self Defense Forces in 2005.
In 2005, he deployed to Afghanistan and commanded a rifle platoon in combat and security operations in Jalalabad and Kunar provinces. His next assignment was Weapons Company Executive Officer and subsequently, the Battalion Assistant Operations Officer and deployed to Haditha, Iraq in 2006. In 2007, he was assigned to the Marine Barracks, "8th & I" in Washington, DC and served as a Platoon Commander and Company Commander for the ceremonial marching unit.
Andrea Wallum informed the audience of a meaningful project she has embarked upon – to develop and construct a Veterans Memorial in the county seat, Meridian.
Not a veteran herself, her three brothers were soldiers. Wallum and her two sisters are all married to Vietnam Veterans. But the family’s military service history started with Wallum’s dad, a WWII Air Force soldier, who married a British Army soldier Lilian Tryner. Because of this background Wallum has a deep respect and gratitude for veterans and has taken it upon herself to realize a Bosque County Veterans Memorial at the Highway 22/Highway 6 intersection in Meridian.
While it has been in her heart a long time, the veterans’ memorials in Whitney and Cranfills Gap motivated her all the more to step outside of her comfort zone and start up the project. And that was no easy task, because the gateway to Meridian is under Texas Department of Transportation jurisdiction. She was lucky to catch Betsy Pitt who was instrumental in the gateway project in 2004 before her retirement. With some restrictions, Pitt approved Wallum’s plan of columns with branch emblems, and a pavement of memorial bricks. The memorial is for anyone that wants to honor a loved one in the military, whether they are active, retired, disabled or deceased from anywhere, not just Bosque County residents.
Other dignitaries were Bosque County Judge Cindy Vanlandingham, Clifton Independent School District Superintendent Andy Ball and several Bosque County elected officials. As a symbol of the U.S. democracy and the men and women who fought for what the country stands for, the Star Spangled banner softly waving on a breeze served as a beautiful and solemn backdrop throughout the ceremony. The red symbolizing hardiness and valor and the blood left on the battle fields; the white symbolizing the purity of heart and innocence, and the blue symbolizing vigilance, perseverance, justice, and the loyalty to the Constitution and the country.
And Taps – the last bugle call at night blown as a signal that lights are to be put out and also blown at military funerals and memorial services in honor of the dead soldier – perfectly performed by a Clifton High School band student Caitlin Crosby concluded the genuine and profound tribute.
The overall message of Veteran’s Day, and Memorial Day is to honor those who answered the call of duty, and served their country as well as they could, some making the ultimate sacrifice. They secured the many freedoms in this country, and words seem inadequate to express our gratitude.
But when you see an active service man or woman, or a veteran, who often proudly wear their service branch on their caps, be sure to thank them for their service. A simple, sincere “thank you for your service” means the world to them.
Photos by SIMONE WICHERS-VOSS
©2022 Southern Cross Creative, LLP. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.