ALAMO — RV parks across the Valley have begun adding a Veterans Wall to their main fellowship hall in honor and memory to their park members who served this country through the various military branches. Recently Trophy Gardens held their dedication after months of preparation.
Professionally presented, their program enlisted the aid of a color guard from the Marine Military Academy in Harlingen and members of the park, with music presented by Walter Plant.
With a crowd of over 500 people, the 156 veterans in the six branches — Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines, Navy and POW’s — on their Wall of Honor were raised in tribute.
“As one looks at this wall and thinks of the wide variety of talents represented, one has to realize that we did not all have the same tasks. Not all were aviators, not all were drill sergeants. Not all were sailors, not all were medics. Not all were clerk typists, not all were marines. Not all were riflemen or gunners. But…I’m quite confidant that all of us did our specialty to the best of our ability and in such a way so that the combined efforts of all the members of the unit to which we were attached resulted in that unit’s mission being accomplished,” said Pete Vos, the first speaker from the park.
“We all take a certain amount of pride in this overall accomplishment,” he said. “I think of some of the basic freedoms all of us enjoy which, in essence, have been preserved for us by the combined efforts of many verterans in many conflicts.”
Don Versteeg gave an emotional reading of the poem, “A Soldier Died Today” by A. Lawrence Vaincourt.
Mike Owen, park resident and Vietnam Veteran, told the tale of what almost was a world changing event.
“As you all know Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. I was aboard the USS Independence as an aviation electrician and had secret clearance. My job was to load nuclear bombs.
“I supervised loading the bomb and at what elevation it would explode. As soon as Kennedy was assassinated we thought the Russians had assassinated him. We knew their submarines were superior to anything we had because they had nuclear subs. We knew we were a sitting target sitting 200 miles off the coast of Russia.
“We had an A4E Skyhawk running on a catapult. I loaded a nuclear weapon and they were waiting for word. We knew we’d get one bomb off. That was it. We knew the ship wouldn’t make it. We knew the pilot wouldn’t make it.
“I want to tell you how proud I am of our people - the pilots stood in line for 36 hours. We switched the bomb from plane to plane and started up different planes. The catapults were below the planes ready so even if we were to take a torpedo we could have gotten that first nuclear strike off.
“That’s how close our world came to changing. Kind of sobering isn’t it?”
With obvious care the 156 pictures had been prepared into a slide show. With patriotic music playing in the background, those men and women flashed across the screen as their names were called off one by one. Youthful faces full of hope, laughter, adventure - faith in their world.
So moving was this ceremony, the whole audience was totally silent - nary a sound except the echoing voice as the names drifted around the room. Silent tears flowed down faces as they recognized the faces and knew their stories. As the pictures of those already gone went across the screen, emotions ran high.
At the end, Johnny Sjodeogren, Lance Corporal, Marine Military Academy blew taps for them for the last time.
“I’m proud to have done my small part while in the Army and I will never forget nor regret that experience,” Pete Vos had said. “I’m proud also to be a part of the Trophy Family and to have this recognition bestowed on all of the veterans who are members of this family.”
As the few remaining WWII vets stood, it was a reminder to honor all those who have served this great country allowing the citizens the freedoms so longed for in countries around the world.
Those of Trophy Garden would like to give special thanks to Tom Daggett and the rest of the Trophy staff for creating the Veterans wall. It was indeed a celebration that will be remembered.