“I’m sick of the hypocrisy; Of lectures by the wise; I’ll take the man with all his flaws; Who goes, though scared and dies.”
– from “Bury Me With Soldiers” by the Rev. Charles R. Fink
A light breeze billowed American and Texas flags atop poles under clear, deep blue skies. A crowd of patriots packed into metal folding chairs at the Wise County Veterans Memorial Park in Decatur late Monday morning as veteran Cliff Dudley read aloud the poem referenced above.
The keynote speaker of the Veteran’s Day ceremony emphasized that honoring America’s military veterans should not be limited to one day per year.
“Our recognition of our veterans should be an ongoing part of our daily lives, as individuals and as a society,” said Chico Mayor J.D. Clark. “While we surely should continue to gather on this day each year, this should be just one of many times that we are thanking a veteran. This should be a public symbol of what we are doing each day.
“You see, Wise County won’t find itself without veterans anytime soon. Many of my peers find themselves fighting in American uniforms in the Middle East while the rest of us are able to go about normal lives here at home.”
Although Clark has never served in the military, he acknowledged the importance of those who have.
“It is incredibly humbling for me to stand here before you today as we honor and celebrate our nation’s veterans,” Clark said. “I stand here before you as man who has not known military service, as a man who has not known a draft, as a man who has not known combat. But I also stand here as a man who well knows that by the grace of God and by the sacrifice of our veterans, I’m able to wake up and do what I do each day.”
He stressed people must ensure all returning veterans receive the best services possible when they return home from war zones.
“As a society, it sometimes seems like we can be disengaged from the reality of war because it’s taking place in a faraway land,” Clark said. “But these faraway wars are being fought by folks from right here. Men and women from our towns and neighborhoods and homes. And while that battleground might be far away. That aftermath is right here in Wise County.
“Because our veterans come home hoping to return to normal life, yet many continue to be at war in their hearts, in their minds, in their sleep … In Wise County we must provide the highest level of veterans services and resources that we can. And taking more than one day out of our year to celebrate, honor and recognize their service and sacrifice.”
Veterans filled many of the chairs lined up before the pavilion.
“As I look around here at the veterans in attendance today, I say, thank God we had you on our side,” Clark said. “And thank God you were willing to step up and serve when we needed you. We will never be able to fully repay you what you have done for us, but we can surely try.”
The ceremony closed with the crisp notes of “Taps” piercing somber silence as the lines of Fink’s poem reverberated in the minds of those present.
“So bury me with soldiers, please; Though much maligned they be; Yes, bury me with soldiers, for
I miss their company. We will not soon see their like again; We’ve had our fill of war. But, bury me with men like them; Till someone else does more!”