It seems that all the hard work these past few years by so many wonderful veterans and patriots in this community is coming to fruition. The week started off with the DAV delivering its 40th electric wheelchair to a veteran who had recently lost his leg. His tears of gratitude gave us a nice warm-fuzzy to enjoy on the 1 ½ hour drive home.
Then on Saturday, members of the DAV, VFW and American Legion presented new American and Arkansas state flags to members of A Company, 2nd Battalion, 153rd Infantry Regiment of the Arkansas National Guard. Before and after the ceremony veterans and members of the Guard spent a great deal of time chatting and sharing stories. The generational respect and admiration for each other was heart-warming.
The next day, members of the DAV were invited by the Smith family to a memorial in honor of their patriarch and long-time DAV member Denzil K. Smith who passed last year. The family and members of his congregation had installed a new flagpole and memorial stone at the Christian Life Center to honor not only Denzil, but all veterans. DAV members were honored to raise the first American flag on the pole and participate in the ceremony.
Denzil was a decorated U.S. Marine who served two tours in Vietnam and was a highly beloved member of the DAV, his church and this community. The congregation insisted we stay for lunch and we felt such warmth and appreciation for our service from the Smith family and church members. All of us veterans left feeling it was a very special moment we will never forget.
Then came last Wednesday. I was surprised and pleased to see so many local veterans show up to march in their first Veterans Day celebration ever. It didn’t seem to matter which military organization your served in, old friendships were renewed and new ones made. The parade turned out to be twice as big as I expected as members of the community showed up in force to lend their support.
The Veterans Day ceremony touched all who attended. There were the proud faces of the Boy Scouts who presented the colors and treated the flags with such respect. The Bergman High School Choir moved everyone with their beautiful rendition of our National Anthem and the school’s student council surprised every veteran with beautiful card and gift. The three World War II veterans, all well into their 90s, insisted on walking under their own power to receive awards from the Daughters of the American Revolution showing their true grit.
The heart-felt applause for our veterans, Blue Star and Gold Star families was very special. Then there were the comforting prayers of Chaplin Fred Woehl and the heart-felt speech by James Luke Mondy. Top that off with bagpipes playing “Amazing Grace” and a moment of silence for our fallen, it was truly a magical and touching time.
The next evening Mayor Jackson and the Harrison City Council, who had heard of our need of a home for the Jack Williams Veteran Resource Center (Camp Jack), discussed plans where the old armory might be made available for helping veterans. This would be a perfect location for Camp Jack and veterans are excited about restoring the building to do good and preserving it’s amazing history.
The marvelous bond that has been forged between our warriors, veteran organizations and this community the past few years was showcased numerous times this past week in meaningful, respectful and beautiful ways. It was a week to remember.
Matt Russell is a USMC Vietnam combat veteran and Commander of the Boone County DAV. The opinions expressed in this column are his alone and do not represent the position of this newspaper, the Disabled American Veterans or any other organization.
Matt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at P.O. Box 632, Harrison, AR 72602.