Congressman Michael Burgess publicly recognized five local veterans at the annual “Salute Our Veterans” luncheon sponsored by the Highland Village Business Association on Tuesday at Celebrations Grand Ballroom in Highland Village.
“It’s an opportunity for us to recognize those who served our country so honorably,” said Highland Village Mayor Scott McDearmont during the presentation.
Congressman Burgess presented the 2011 Congressional Veteran Commendations to: Gary Alexander (Marines) of Gainesville, Julius Fambry (Army) of The Colony, Donald Langa (Navy) of Denton, Joe Leonard, Jr., (Army) of Gainesville, and Leroy Williamson, Sr., (Army/Air Force) of Denton.
Throughout each of their stories, the men said that their goal was to preserve our freedoms as a nation.
Joe Leonard commented on his experience of receiving the Congressional Veteran Commendation, “It was very much an honor to be selected not only for the service I had during World War II, but also for the service to the community.”
Before the commendations were presented, the Marcus High School Junior ROTC opened the ceremony in full uniform carrying the American Flag and Vocal Magic led in singing the National Anthem.
The most heart wrenching and tearful part of the presentation was when Mayor McDearmont honored those local soldiers who gave their lives in the Afghanistan and Iraq Conflicts of the Global War on Terrorism. Many of the family members of these fallen soldiers were in attendance at the event.
Those fallen heroes were: Army SPC. Nathaniel A Aguirre, Army SGT. Carlos A. Benitez, Army 2nd LT. Peter H. Burks, Army CPL. Peter J. Courcy, Army 2nd LT. Johnny K. Craver, Army SPC. Ernest W. Dallas, Jr., Army SPC. Jonathan Gilbert, Lance CPL. Albert Haddad, Jr., Army LT. Col. Daniel E. Holland, Army PVT, Aaron M. Hudson, Marine Lance CPL. Brandon R. Lara, Marine Lance CPL. Jacob R Lugo, Army PFC. Ryan M. McCauley. Army SGT. 1st Class Justin Monschke, Army Lt. Robert Welch III, and Army Maj. Matthew W. Worrell.
The presentation culminated when Laurie Mullens, Public Affairs Manager of Highland Village, conducted a “Veterans Salute”, where the majority of the veterans in the audience stood up one at a time, introduced themselves and told a few words about their military experiences. What resulted was that there was a great camaraderie among the veterans and they bonded in the serious purpose of the event.
In fact, Ms. Mullens told a personal story of how important saluting our veterans is. She invited her father, Jack Pfeiffer, who is a veteran to attend the “Salute Our Veterans” lunch. At his first event, he was pleasantly surprised and said, “I’m glad I went. No one has ever thanked me for my service to our country.” That was seven years ago and he’s attended every “Salute Our Veterans” lunch since then.
The mission of the ceremony can best be summed up in the Program Book which states, “The City of Highland Village employees honor our veterans and express our thanks for their service to the United States of America.”
After the presentation, I asked Dr. Burgess what presenting the Congressional Commendations meant to him and he said, “First on one level, it’s a chance to thank some people who really did some very special things during their time in military service.
“But on another level, it’s a chance for everyone here at the luncheon to hear what they did, the reasons for which they received the honor and to be able to share a little part of their story which is so important – and we’re losing a little bit of these stories every day.”
Dr. Burgess concluded, “So, the chance to share these stories with the community at large, I feel is an important part of this.”
In-depth interviews are planned in the future with the commendees from the event and those interviews will be forwarded to the Veterans’ History Project to be added to the Library of Congress collection.
“The Congressional Veteran Commendation, in conjunction with the Veterans’ History Project sponsored by the Library of Congress, has been created to honor the distinguished veterans of Texas’ 26 Congressional District and to preserve their stories for future generations of America,” said Congressman Burgess.
To conclude, after all is said and done, as our United States of America Constitution states: we are a nation with the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – and our military with their courage and patriotic efforts has helped us to maintain our freedoms and independence.
Pictured above (L to R): Gary Alexander, Julius Fambry, Congressman Michael Burgess, Donald Langa, Joe M. Leonard, Jr., Leroy M. Williamson, Sr.
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