The Big Spring VA Medical Center, joined by Howard College, tipped their collective hats to all area veterans Friday during the annual Community-wide Veterans Day Program at the Dorothy Garrett Coliseum.
The program included patriotic music provided by the Moss Elementary School Choir, Coahoma Choir Kids and Howard College Hawk Jam ensemble, with presentation of the colors done by the Goodfellow Air Force Base Honor Guard.
Invocation for the event was provided by U.S. Army veteran Robert Underwood. The event featured a number of speakers, including Dr. Cheryl Sparks, president of Howard College.
“Today, I also want to welcome you on behalf of our veterans. We have many veterans who are part of the Howard College family, employees and students,” Sparks said. “We appreciate them for what they do on a day-to-day basis and what they have done for us in the past.
“We all have a different story about veterans, about people who have served. Some of the younger people in the crowd, you may not have your story yet, but you will. Because, as life goes on, someone you know and love will serve and they will serve with great honor. So, you are getting a sort of head start, because you are helping to honor people who have served and you'll have a better appreciation when the day comes for the ones you know and love to serve.”
Daniel Marsh, director of the West Texas VA Health Care System and a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, also spoke, saying the sacrifices made by all veterans — as well as family members of veterans — is nothing short of tremendous.
“To say the contributions our veterans have made to our country are tremendous would be a complete understatement,” Marsh said. “Many of our brave Americans have served their country for years in the military, while some served for two, three or even four years. As an Air Force veteran, I served for four years and I enjoyed it. I had many different assignments and served during Vietnam.
“Their sacrifices are tremendous. As you heard, many of them made the ultimate sacrifice and cannot be with us anymore. We especially want to pay tribute to those veterans who paid that price. They are the reason we have so much freedom and enjoy living in such a great country. It's a true privilege to be here today.”
Keynote speaker for the ceremony was Big Spring's own Jerry Worthy, a veteran of the U.S. Air Force who was instrumental in the renaming of the local VA Medical Center to the George O'Brien VA Medical Center. Worthy was also a driving force in the effort at the turn of the century to save the historic Hangar 25, which would later become the Hangar 25 Air Museum.
Worthy said today, veterans are revered through most of the country, complete with parades and other pleasantries when they return home from battle. Unfortunately, for veterans of the Korean and Vietnam wars, such revelry hasn't always been the standard.
“Now days, veterans are appreciated and respected, many more than ever,” Worthy said. “Those of us (who served during) the Korean and Vietnam wars know that all-to-well. My mother and father picked me up in California after I returned from being stationed at Kadena Air Base in Okinawa. I had been flying bombing missions over North Korea. Somewhere along the ride home, in Colorado, we heard the peace treaty had finally been signed. That night at the hotel I dressed up in my uniform and put on all the shiny things I could find and went downtown to celebrate. However, everything was closed. It seemed no one was aware of what was going on. I returned to the motel, I suppose a little dejected.
“There was no ticker-tape parade to end the war, and you know, anytime you get shot at, it's a war. Today, our service to our country is more recognized and it's because of the great folks today that is happening. We owe much to our veterans today, respect and care. Because they not only offered to fight the wars that threatened our country as their patriotic duty, but because of the impact it had on their families and careers and the time they took out of their lives to do it. All too often, the time it takes to recover our status and adjust to a productive civilian life. Sometimes it is not easy.”
Worthy extolled the value of the local VA Medical Center, as well as the support of a grateful nation and family members, deeming those helping hands as inspiring.
“Our lifeline is the VA Medical System, provided by a grateful nation. Our economy and our country are stronger because of this,” Worthy said. “So now, on this great day for veterans, I say any veteran should be called an American-plus. We just did our duty, but those at home did just as much for providing and inspiring that duty.”