GEORGETOWN — Many Sun City residents started honoring fallen servicemen early Sunday as hundreds packed into Sun City Texas Community Association’s auditorium to hear Camp Mabry’s 36th Infantry Division Band play some tunes.

The event has been put on since 2002 after the Georgetown-Williamson County Veterans Memorial Plaza was completed.

Retired Gen. Chuck Graham, who lives in Georgetown, spearheaded the event. It was held inside this year because of the rain.

But that did not stop residents from showing their patriotism.

“I’m proud that I served in the military, and I want to thank all of those who also served,” said Ned Shandlin, who served in the U.S. Air Force in the 1960s.

An aeronautical engineer, he said he did not see combat but he kept the planes flying for those who did. 

His wife, Karol, also was involved in planes. She worked as a flight attendant with American Airlines while Ned Shandlin was in the Air Force. She too was affected by the Vietnam War.

“We would fly the boys over there,” she said. “And there were times we’d have to fly the bodies back. They were just babies. Some of them didn’t even weigh 120 pounds, and they were so young.”

It was a “life changing experience” that she’ll always keep with her, she said.

But a commitment to your country is something that requires dedication, according to Graham.

Graham, who was stationed at Fort Hood, had a lengthy career in the military that circled around one, sometimes seemingly unceasing, conflict.

“My whole career was involved in the Cold War. It started when I was a cadet at West Point, and it wasn’t over until I retired when the walls came down and the Soviet Union collapsed. It was a matter of serving our country,” he said.

If there was anything he hoped to pass down to future generations, it was a sense of the sacrifice others have made to guarantee their well-being. 

“They need to realize that freedom is not free. It is not free,” he said. “There are people in this world who don’t like us. There’s going to be another conflict again, unfortunately, and we need to be ready for it.”

Contact Courtney Griffin at cgriffin@kdhnews.com or 254-501-7559

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