In The News
Kimberly Willingham (202) 225-3035
November 13, 2012 The Longview News Journal, By Angela Ward
Lt. Col. Brad Reeves told a crowd of about 500 people on Monday that the dedication of a veterans monument on the Rusk County courthouse lawn was a fitting tribute to the county residents who served their country in the armed forces.
The $100,000 granite monument — about three years in the making — is inscribed with the names of about 1,000 veterans, with room for more to be added.
It was dedicated as part of the county’s Veterans Day ceremonies.
Reeves, an Air Force officer and 1990 graduate of Henderson High School, was one of the main speakers at the event along with Congressman Louie Gohmert (R-Tyler), who presented the Purple Heart to Vietnam veteran Douglas E. Morton.
Reeves told the crowd Veterans Day has a twofold purpose: to honor veterans and to inspire everyone to be of service to their country.
“Service in the military is for some; service to our country is for all,” Reeves said.
Reeves spoke of several servicemen who had been injured or killed in the line of duty, ranging from World War II to the current conflicts in the Middle East.
“I’m unworthy to speak on behalf of the names on this monument,” Reeves said. “But I owe it to you to share the privilege of serving in our military.”
Reeves asked all those present to dedicate a small portion of their time, money or emotional support to veterans organizations, such as the Wounded Warrior Project. This could be done by donating money or sending an email to one of the veterans at the site, he said.
“Their bodies are broken, but their spirits are whole,” Reeves said. “Don’t wait until you can devote an hour of your time or $100 of your money to this; do what you can now, whether that means giving five dollars or five minutes.”
R.D. Wittner, one of the key people behind the movement to create and erect the monument, also spoke at the event.
“I appreciate all the veterans who’ve worked hard to make this monument a reality and who came forward to have their names put on the monument,” Wittner said. “If you’re a Rusk County veteran and your name is not on the monument, I would urge you to add it, because this is an important part of our history and our heritage.”
Veterans, or their families, paid $100 each to have their names inscribed on the monument and Rusk County contributed $20,000. Additional funding came from individual and corporate donations.
County Judge Joel Hale voiced pride in the turnout for the dedication.
“When people first began discussing this monument, there were some in the community who wanted it in a location other than the courthouse lawn,” Hale said. “However, the court wanted it here, because veterans are important to our county.”
The event also included a flyover by a Department of Public Safety helicopter and performances by the Henderson High School choir and the Mount Enterprise High School band.
Gohmert is himself a veteran of the U.S. Army, although he said he never saw combat during his 1978 to 1982 enlistment.
“The 1970s was not a good time to be in the military service and those who served in Vietnam didn’t get the respect they deserved when they returned home,” Gohmert said. “We owe them so very much.”
Gohmert presented the Purple Heart, which he said was long overdue, to Morton, who was wounded in the Tet offensive.
“We have great people in East Texas who understand sacrifice,” Gohmert said. “Freedom, like any inheritance, will be lost if we’re not willing to fight for it.”
Gohmert said he was impressed by the the monument and the number of Rusk County residents who came out to its dedication.
Adolphus Bagley and Harvey Graves, Rusk County residents and veterans of the Vietnam War, said they were glad to see the monument and each expressed appreciation of the work of so many people in the county to make it a reality.
“It’s a great tribute to people who made sacrifices for our country,” Graves said.