By Don Bolding
Killeen Daily Herald
HARKER HEIGHTS – U.S. Rep. John Carter on Monday told a crowd gathered at the Harker Heights Veterans Memorial that such a ceremony would be impossible if it were not for the men and women willing to die for the rights of all Americans.
"Our people in Baghdad know why they're there," he said, standing at the memorial outside Harker Heights City Hall. "Our liberty is secured by those who say the way they are saying, You shall not take my liberty away,'" the congressman told the crowd of about 500 assembled for the morning observance.
Referring to a bill scheduled to be signed Monday by President Bush, he said, "I'm proud to have co-sponsored the Respect for America's Fallen Heroes Act protecting the burial services of our fallen service members from protestors. We should never tolerate anyone dishonoring anyone who serves this nation."
The ceremony at the Harker Heights Veterans Memorial followed a 9 a.m. parade from the intersection of Cheetah Trail and U.S. 190, ending at Carl Levin City Park. The parade was Heights' first for Memorial Day.
"We were much better organized this year than last year," said Charles Duncan of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3892. "Everybody just decided to get together on it and make it a strong, meaningful event."
In a separate announcement, Carter, R-Round Rock, lauded the signing of another bill he co-sponsored, the HERO Act, which "ensures that our brave service men and women who are defending America overseas have the opportunity to fully participate in saving for retirement. I am pleased to have this injustice corrected so our soldiers can start saving now."
In a brief ceremony conducted at the same time Monday in Killeen, VFW Post 9192 held its annual Remembrance Memorial Day service at Killeen Memorial Cemetery in honor of the late Ted Connell, who was a VFW national commander in chief. On the schedule were a legacy of Connell by Alexander Vernon, past commander of the VFW Department of Texas, placing of a wreath by Connell's widow, Diane, and past VFW national commander James E. Nier.
In the Heights ceremony, state Rep. Dianne White Delisi of Temple presented Harker Heights Mayor Ed Mullen with a flag that had flown over the state capital. She told the crowd that compassion for families of the current war's casualties should be a prominent part of the national life.
"A touch of the hand to a new widow, an invitation to lunch can be invaluable in reducing the pain," she said. "On behalf of Texas I bring gratitude for what you are doing here today."
Besides VFW Post 3892, veterans' groups planning the day's activities included American Legion Post 573 and auxiliary, Disabled American Veterans Chapter 29 and auxiliary and Military Order of the Purple Heart Centex Chapter and auxiliary No. 1876.
Bell County Veterans Liaison Officer Jim Endicott recounted a history of Memorial Day from its beginnings right after the Civil War.
"In recent years, we had forgotten what the day was supposed to be until it became all barbecues and parties," Mullen said. "I hope we're turning that around."
A detachment of Harker Heights police officers posted colors at the beginning of the ceremony and retired them at its end. The flag flew at half-staff throughout the proceedings. Melonie McConaghy sang the National Anthem and sang the song "Soldier Boy" during the laying of a wreath at the memorial.
The hourlong ceremony was followed by a day of festivities at Levin Park.
All the participants in the ceremony were in the parade, as well as the Heights Fire Department, Miss Teen USA Tina Isdale, Cultura Filipiniana and other officials and companies.
Tex Stadler, riding with the Bell County Sheriff's Posse, led a horse carrying a picture of his friend Sgt. Michael L. "Luke" Boatright, with whom he had served in Bosnia. Boatright was killed by an improvised explosive device in Iraq on Dec. 4, 2004, while serving with an engineer battalion in the 1st Cavalry Division.
"He wasn't a member of this sheriff's posse, but he and I talked a lot about it, and I had the feeling he would have joined, but he didn't have the chance," Stadler said. "I wanted to honor him this way."
Contact Don Bolding at firstname.lastname@example.org