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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Over 100 veterans recognized for Brazos Valley Wall of Honor

Photo by Bridget Bristow

The fightin’ Texas Aggie Band Bugler closes the 2023 Brazos Valley Veterans Memorial Veterans Day Ceremony with taps on Sunday, Nov. 12 at Veterans Park. (Bridget Bristow/The Battalion)

Since 2000, the Brazos Valley has honored more than 6,600 veterans who are friends and family of Brazos Valley residents on the Wall of Honor, located within Louis L. Adam Memorial Plaza. On Nov. 12, the Brazos Valley Veterans Memorial hosted a ceremony in Veterans Park & Athletic Complex to honor the 115 veterans added to the Wall of Honor in 2023.

Before the event kicked off at 4 p.m., the Brazos Valley Chorale performed a medley of patriotic music, including “God Bless America,” “Grand Ol’ Flag” and “America, America.” Following the songs, Memorial for all Veterans of the Brazos Valley, Inc. members, Event Committee Chair Bill Youngkin and information committee member Tom Turbiville conducted the 2023 Wall of Honor roll call. Youngkin and Turbiville took turns conducting the call. Turbiville asked for those present in honor of the called Veteran to stand in their place.

“This has become an integral part of our ceremony, what we’ll be doing here is we’ll call the name so honored and if you are a veteran, ask that you stand and answer as you would,” Turbiville said. “If the veteran is not present, but the family is and friends who would ask that you do this, do likewise. That is to stand and to answer as your veteran would have answered when they were answering roll call.”

Retired United States Army Lt. Gen. Randolph House, Class of 1967, delivered the welcoming remarks after Youngkin and Turbiville called all 115 names. House thanked everyone for filling the covered pavilion. Event organizers brought in more chairs as the event went on due to an overwhelming number of people taking up more of the venue space than anticipated.

Retired U.S. Army Major Steve Beachy, Class of 1969,  delivered the invocation. Beachy said those on duty pay great sacrifices and carry a heavy burden.

“For almost 250 years, brave men and women have stepped forward and taken the sacred oath with your help to support and defend the constitution of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic,” Beachy said. “Today we give thanks and honor all of those that have worn the cloth of our country while serving here at home and throughout the world in times of peace and in times of war.”

Members of the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Marching Band played the National anthem before the large crowd and also performed a service medley following the Veterans Day program’s special recognition of community partners.

Youngkin introduced the keynote speaker for the ceremony, Dr. James H. Willbanks, Texas A&M Class of 1969 and retired U.S. Army servicemember.  Willbanks has earned numerous awards, including the Silver Star, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star with ‘V’ and Oak Cluster, Purple Heart with Oak leaf cluster, to name a few. Despite these achievements, Willbanks said he wanted to commemorate his fellow veterans.

“I’m here to pay tribute to all of my brothers and sisters who have served in the defense of this great nation,” Willbanks said. “I want to talk about those who have borne the cost of America’s war and stood watch over America’s peace, who they are and what legacy they leave for the generations to follow.”

Wiillbanks said veterans all have their differences, yet share one commonality.

“They are from every race, every ethnicity, every religion”  Willbanks said. “They’re from different parts of the country, big cities, small towns, arms and ranches. They’re our colleagues and friends, our neighbors and family members.They are fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers, sons and daughters. As one speaker on this day last year observed, they are just like us, one of us. What do all these veterans have in common? They all answered the call to serve in the defense of this great nation.”

It is common courtesy to thank a veteran, Willbanks said, but there are more meaningful ways to show gratitude.

“First, we can make sure that all veterans receive the support and care they need to thrive in civilian life once they take off their uniforms,” Willbanks said. “This includes better healthcare, education and job opportunities. We need to reach out to those struggling with the aftermath of war, such as physical and mental trauma, PTSD, substance abuse and the effects of agent orange and the burn pits. We need to offer them our understanding and make sure they get the assistance and care they need and deserve … We must do whatever we must do to stop this epidemic of veteran suicides.”

The ceremony concluded with a rifle salute, courtesy of the A&M Corps of Cadets Ross Volunteers, and Taps performed by the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band Bugler.

The 2024 Veterans Day Ceremony will take place on Nov. 11, Veterans Day, 2024.

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