Veterans Day Eve provided a chance to both celebrate American freedom and to honor the men and women who kept America free—such was the occasion Friday at Williams Memorial United Methodist Church.
Dozens of red, white and blue decorations and free souvenirs dotted tables inside the church's gym, which awaited 200 to 300 local and area veterans and their spouses at the 18th annual Salute to Veterans Reception.
Unlike years past, this year's reception had a notable historical flavor to it when Texarkana Gazette Editor Les Minor spoke about what he learned about his hometown of Emporia, Kan., in terms of it being the place where Armistice Day became known as Veterans Day in 1954.
Minor explained that 35 years after Nov. 11, 1918, which marked the end of World War I, became known as Armistice Day, one of the city's shoemakers urged his congressman to introduce federal legislation aimed renaming the day. The idea caught on, and President Dwight Eisenhower eventually signed the bill into law Oct. 8, 1954.
Minor went on to relate how he found out that his grandfather, Nelson Minor, an athlete, joined the Army, but rather than go overseas, he received deployment stateside to help bury the many people who were dying of a worldwide flu epidemic at that time.
Following the presentation, veterans belonging to each branch of military service got the chance to stand as the theme song of each branch of service was played.
As in years past, different categories of veterans were recognized not only for the war they fought in but also their historical location of note. These included Pearl Harbor veteran Jessie Linam and Pearl Harbor veteran Walter Moore, who turned 104 years old Friday.
Besides taking in the presentation and the service recognitions, the veterans took the chance to mingle and talk about old times.
Gerald Gomer, an Army veteran of the Persian Gulf War of 1991, said that as he served with the U.S. 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment. He remembers both the sand and the wide difference in temperatures that both day and night brought to the desert.
"I was actually hot when we first got deployed over there, but war actually happened in the winter so it wasn't too bad," he said.
Army veteran James Shanette said that although he served stateside at at Fort Polk, La., during the Vietnam War, the Louisiana territory he had to traverse during basic training seemed wet and as tropical as Vietnam itself.
"We had to go through the swamps and the snakes and the mosquitoes, but I came through it all right," he said. "I was blessed."