Honoring All Who Have Served

John Parsons , Staff Reporter


Texas A&M University-Commerce held its 27th annual Veteran’s Vigil to recognize active duty military personnel, veterans and their families at Rayburn Student Center Nov. 8 with a ceremony and lighting of a vigil flame. Service members and veterans of different eras were among the 150 people who attended.

Irving High School Marine Corps Junior ROTC students served as honor guard with Second Lieutenant Estrada, Sergeant Major Sanchez, First Sergeant Hernandez, and Private Sandoval presenting the colors.

Derryle Peace, director of alumni relations, provided the invocation and spoke of the 99th Infantry Division. In 1943, selected men attended then East Texas State Teachers College to learn how to be better soldiers and leaders. They deployed in 1944 and became the most decorated unit of World War II.

The Pride Marching Band provided buglers McKenna Hill, senior, and Austin Loehr, junior, who played Taps during the opening ceremony.

“Perseverance and knowing it will always end,” is what Simon Alviar, United States Marine Corps infantry veteran, ASTP Memorial Scholarship recipient and TAMUC engineering major, learned in the military.

City of Commerce Mayor Wyman Williams, read a proclamation declaring Nov. 8-10, 2018 “Remember Us Celebration” in honor of those “called to do what we are free to do.”

“More task oriented,” Army veteran Brad Voss, military occupational specialty 35N-signal intelligence analyst, said he learned of himself while on active duty. He would like students to learn to “work now, play later.”

A Student Veterans Association slideshow featured pictures and music of service members of various conflicts performing their duties and encouraged viewers to “Remember to Remember.”

U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sergeant Vance Clarke (retired) was the keynote speaker.

“Active duty service members are warriors,” he said. They “are holding to their oath” regardless of real or perceived political turmoil in our country.

He went on to say, “our world is full of danger,” and reminded listeners of the “volunteers, warriors, who stand between [unstable world leaders] and our flag.”

Clarke spoke of the four U.S. service flags on display in his home; two are burial flags, one is a boat flag and one is his retirement flag from May 2010.

He served 30 years in over 13 different countries.

“These dead will not have died in vain,” Clarke quoted President Lincoln as the peace light was being lit in Gettysburg.

“Reminds us of what Veteran’s Day is all about,” Clarke said and continued, “we all stand on the shoulders of giants.”

“I’m proud to be an American,” he tearfully said. “May we all remember and never forget.”

Band drummers Juan Rojas and Brooke Stehr led the processional to the outdoor location of the vigil flame where Dr. Buddy Gregg, DVM and Navy veteran, lit the flame that burned throughout the day. SVA members, other veterans and honor guard members served as sentries.

Vince Romero, SVA president and Army veteran, MOS 88M-truck driver, learned “acceptance” in the military. “Serving in different countries, I’ve learned to accept different cultures.”

“I learned to appreciate them,” he said, and “gained respect for other people.”

Lunch was catered by Ernie’s Pit BBQ of Greenville.

While on active duty, “I became more self-assured,” Joseph Miller, SVA vice president and Navy mineman veteran said. “Confidence, even in the hardest times, I can handle it.”

Staff Sergeant Ryan Baker, USMC Reserves, MOS 1391-boat fuel specialist, served on active duty, got out and then joined the reserves because “I just missed it.”

The vigil is “a good way to share,” Dustin Pearson, Army veteran, TAMUC veterans and military coordinator and Veteran’s Vigil committee chairman, said.

“I was very immature,” Gregg said. Serving “made me grow up,” and “increased the value of patriotism and the value of my fellow man.”

“I appreciate [the vigil],” Dave London, Air Force retiree, said. “It’s beautiful.”

He served during Vietnam and never felt appreciated for his service.

While in the military, “I learned the ability to work with people,” London said.

During the closing ceremony, “please thank [veterans] at every turn, every opportunity,” Dr. Mark Rudin, TAMUC president, said.

Hunt County honor guard provided a 15-gun salute and Loehr played Taps.

Rudin received the executive salute from Sanchez and the honor guard retired the colors to end the day of remembrance and celebration.