Veterans and their families, city officials, active-duty soldiers and first responders from the police and fire departments gathered Nov. 9 for the annual Harker Heights veterans ceremony.
Students in the Junior ROTC program at Harker Heights High School and other local residents also attended the program at the Heights Parks and Recreation gymnasium.
Emcee Pat Christ, past state council president of the Military Officers Association of America, told the more than 75 people gathered, “The purpose of this simple ceremony is to show honor to veterans, our flag and the country,” he said.
Guest speaker was Lt. Col. James R. Crane, deputy commander of the 3rd Cavalry Regiment (Brave Rifles) at Fort Hood.
Crane said, “Not all of our citizens are called to serve in the military or had the opportunity to do so. Nonetheless, the qualities that we revere in our veterans such as honor, selfless service, courage and sacrifice are attributes that we find among the people of Harker Heights and throughout Central Texas.
“Among them are our law enforcement officers, paramedics, teachers, firefighters, students, sales associates, restaurant employees and people from all walks of life and infinite diversity,” he said.
Harker Heights Mayor Spencer Smith, a former Marine, said, “Today is a day of reflection to honor those who answered the call. Less than one percent of the U.S. population has served. Veterans are a part of the special few.”
Smith shared the long history of military service in his family.
Smith said his father was a 19-year-old sailor aboard a destroyer in Pearl Harbor when it was attacked. He served in numerous campaigns throughout the Pacific.
“My father-in-law fought with the U.S. Army in North Africa in World War II,” Smith said. “He survived the destruction of his tank at Monte Casino and spent the remainder of the war as a POW in Poland.
“My brother fought with the 4th ID as an infantry officer in the central highlands in Vietnam,” Smith continued.
“Two of my uncles served with the U.S. Army in the Korean War. My grandfather served in the U.S. Army in World War I.
“My great-grandfather fought in the War Between the States,” he said.
“This is my story and I’m proud of those who proceeded me and inspired me to seek a career in the Marine Corps that lasted for 24 years,” Smith said.
Earlier in the ceremony, the city honored a veteran of the Vietnam War.
Christ said, “Over the past couple of years we have been honoring several veterans of the Vietnam War with a certificate and would like to do that tonight. We honor Anthony W. Halfly. Acquinetta Holton, president of the Vietnam Veterans Association joins us in doing so.”
The certificate stated, “On behalf of a grateful nation, it is a privilege to present you with a symbol of thanks and to honor your service, valor and sacrifice when our country needed you. You answered our nation’s call and proudly served in the footsteps of previous generations of American servicemen and women. It is an honor to present you with this certificate and the commemorative pin in recognition of your patriotism and service.”
The ceremony concluded with a wreath laying assisted by Sgt. Addie Ford and Pfc. Maggie Bilyeu, a moment of silence, the playing of taps, and the singing of “God Bless America.”
Pastor David Whitley of the Mountain View Baptist Church led the benediction.
Other participants in the ceremony:
Dr. David Morgan, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church, offered the invocation.
The Harker Heights Fire and Police Department Honor Guard performed the posting of the colors.
Cadet Staff Sgt. Tatiana Toribio of the Harker Heights High School Junior JROTC performed the national anthem.