Laverne Pick places a carnation against the memorial wall outside the Olin E. Teague Veterans’ Medical Center as part of a Veterans Day celebration. Pick’s husband, Alfred, died 12 years ago.

Alex Wukman | FME News Service

TEMPLE — As senior Baylor music student Megan Gackle lifted her soprano voice through the octave and hit the high A, the words “land of the free and home of the brave” rang out over the nearly 200 people assembled in front of the Olin E. Teague Veterans’ Medical Center.

The crowd was filled with children, taking advantage of a warm late autumn day without school, and Vietnam and World War II veterans. Some of the veterans, like Pete Corbett, were first-time attendees.

Corbett, who served in the Air Force from 1968 to 1969, said even though he’s lived in Central Texas for years he’d “never been in the area” on Veterans Day.

Scott Rodke, who retired from the Army infantry as a command sergeant major, said he had “been coming for about 10 years.”

“It’s gotten better every year.”

Rodke said he’s been going to the hospital for more than 30 years and the service has substantially improved recently.

“In 1978, ’79, ’80 you had some people that were entrenched and didn’t care about you,” Rodke said. “Now, you have young doctors who are really dedicated and treat you with respect.”

Sallie A. Houser-Hanfelder, director of the hospital, recounted the history of Veterans Day. She told the crowd how the day, originally called Armistice Day, was created to commemorate the end of World War I. A 1938 revision changed the name to Veterans Day and set it as a legal holiday.

“Each year on the 11th day of the 11th month we pause to honor our veterans,” said Col. Bertram Providence, commander of the 1st Medical Brigade at Fort Hood.

Karen Spada, the hospital’s associate director for patient and nursing services, read 81 names that were added to the memorial wall. Before she began reading, she let the families know that she empathized with their loss.

“I know what you’re going through,” she said. “In 2008, I stood here and read my father’s name.”

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