By Colleen Flaherty
Killeen Daily Herald
TEMPLE - Veterans of all generations, donning hats signaling their military branches and tours of duty, populated the lawn outside the Central Texas Veterans Health Care System Friday during its annual Veterans Day ceremony.
"We honor the men and women who sacrificed for something greater than themselves," state Rep. Ralph Sheffield, R-Temple, the event's keynote speaker, told the crowd. "We can stand here and peacefully assemble because of our veterans. We were able to vote earlier this week because of our veterans. ... To me, service does make a difference."
Sheffield also thanked the many family members present for their support.
"Without your willingness to share your sons, your daughters, your husbands and your wives with us, their service would not be possible," he said.
Dr. William Harper, the hospital's chief of staff, gave a brief history of Veterans Day, dating back to Nov. 11, 1918, when the Versailles Treaty that ended World War I was signed. He also thanked the 6 percent of the U.S. population that has served in the military, before reading the names of the 26 Central Texas veterans who were added to the hospital's memorial wall this year.
Some veterans, along with friends and family members, held red carnations to lay at the wall.
Sue Kidwell, president of the Austin area's Retired Officers' Wives' Club, took a picture of her husband's name before placing her flower on top of the memorial. Air Force retiree Howard W. Kidwell died in December.
Kidwell said it was an honor to attend the ceremony and take time to remember veterans, whom she called the shepherds of society.
"There are three types of people," she said. "There are sheep, who go along, unaware of the dangers that exist. There are the shepherds who protect the sheep, and then there are the wolves. And there will always be wolves."
World War II veteran Walt Holkins, 85, said Veterans Day meant "recognition." He attended the ceremony in his Army dress uniform from the 1940s, which still fit his trim figure. "I feel a little out of place," he said between shaking hands with the many ceremony-goers who wanted to meet him.
Vietnam War veteran Mike "Hog Daddy" Hayes of American Legion Riders Post 55 in Belton said he doesn't get thanked too often for his service, including three tours to the country, but it means a lot when he does.
Veterans Day makes him contemplative.
"I feel sorry for the families whose names are on the wall," said Hayes, 65, motioning to the VA's memorial. "And I think about my friends I lost."
However, he said the holiday also makes him proud. "It's a special day for veterans, for them to really be honored by their nation."
Some 85,000 veterans are enrolled in the Central Texas VA system. For more information on the VA, go to www.centraltexas.va.gov.
Contact Colleen Flaherty at email@example.com or (254) 501-7559. Follow her on Twitter at KDHFortHood.