Falls County celebrates Veterans Day

Thank You Veterans

Veteran Day 2020 has come and gone, but the memories of those we honor and the sacrifices they made remain in our thoughts.  The Falls County Historical Commission has for many years been the sponsor of this national holiday event to honor our men and women who have served in our military forces.  The Commission has been proud to have the American Legion Post 31 join them in this mission the last several years, and this year to co-sponsor the event.  

Due to the pandemic which our country has endured for the past eight months, and the health restrictions placed on the gatherings of large groups, the commission board voted to find a new way to enforce the health requirements, yet to keep our commitment to our veterans.  That decision resulted in the program being a drive-in; sit- in- your –car –if –you-wish type program with all the original themes.  The crowd began gathering with approximately 30 cars in the parking lot of the First Baptist Church in Marlin with an average of two people in each car.  

This years program was dedicated to the memory of Jean Craig and Mike Sodek, both veterans and members of American Legion Post 31.  Both passed away this past year.  

The program began at 11:00 am as is customary to fit into the ending of World War I at the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month.  Falls County Judge, Jay Elliott, served as Master of Ceremonies.  Trudie Asbury, President of the Falls County Historical Commission and Fred Ormsby, Commander of the American Legion Post 31, gave welcoming speeches.  

The Color Guard was presented by the American Legion and the National Anthem was sung by Cara Sue Albright.  Patti Kalmbach led the pledges to the American Flag and to the Texas Flag.   The prayer was given by Fred Ormsby, who is also a Bishop for the Non-Denominational Sure Foundation Ministries.  

Marlin and Falls County is honored to have the nationally recognized cowboy poet, Jim Cathey, as a native resident.  He is famous for presenting the Johnny Cash poem, “That Ragged Old Flag” which was greatly received by the audience.  

The American Legion presented the military service flags, accompanied by the battle song of each service unit, beginning with Army, followed by the Marine, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard.  

Aleishia Miller read a brief history of World War I, “The War to End all Wars” which was sparked into action on June 28, 1914 by the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austria-Hungary  Empire, and his wife,  by a Serbian Nationalist.  Within a month Austria-Hungry declared war on Serbia. Within a week of that declaration, Russia, Belgium, France, Great Britain and Serbia (known as the Allied Powers) had lined up against Austria-Hungary and Germany (known as the Central Powers) and World War I had begun.

The United States was neutral until Germany began striking and sinking merchant ships and the final blow came that turned American opinion against Germany with the sinking of the British passenger ship, the  Lusitania with hundreds of American passengers onboard in May 1915 by German U-boats. 

The war ended on November 11, 1918, with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles.  It was a costly war, both in lives and material goods.  More than 9 million soldiers were killed and 21 million wounded.  Civilian casualties numbered to 10 million. 

It was the first time that countries across the world were engaged in a major conflict and many of the modern technologies, machine guns, tanks, aerials combat and radio communication were introduced.  The use of chemical gas, such as mustard gas, turned the public and military against the use and led to their restrictions in the Geneva Convention. 

The global war brought about the deadliest global pandemic, the Spanish Flu, which killed an estimated 20-50 million people, and much social upheaval as millions of women entered the workforce to support men who went to war and replace those that never came back.  

Trudie Asbury spoke of the beginnings of the day to honor our military men and women which has its root formation on November 11, 1918 at 11 o’clock am.  Ten years passed before the United States Congress officially recognized the end of World War I and declared that the anniversary of the armistice should be commemorated with prayer and thanksgiving. 

In 1938, Congress passed an act making November 11 of each year a legal holiday, known as Armistice Day.  This acted was originally intended for the veterans of World War I but was changed following the mobilization of the largest number of service men in the history of the United States for World War II, , and after the Korea conflict of 1954. 

On June 1, 1954 Congress changed the word “Armistice” to “Veterans”.  When the Uniforms Holiday Bill was passed in 1968 it moved  Veterans Day to the fourth Monday of October and  took effect in 1971.  T

his was met with so much pushback from the veterans groups and the public that President Ford signed into law in 1975 an act  stating Veterans Day would be on November 11 from that time on.  

A poem, written by Cheryl Dyson, Veterans Day, was read by Elizabeth Nelson.

“On Veterans Day we honor all, Who answered to a service call. Soldiers young, and soldiers old, Fought for freedom, brave and bold.  Some have lived, while other died, and all of them deserve our pride.  We’re proud of all the soldiers who, They fought for us and all our rights, They fought through many days and nights.  And though we may not know each name, We thank ALL veterans just the same. “ 

Rachel Wilson read the poem, In Flanders Field, written by John McCrae, an army doctor who watched the red poppies fill the battle field where the soldiers shed their blood, died and now rest eternally.  

“In Flanders fields the poppies blow between the crosses, row on row.  That mark our place; and the sky the larks, still bravely singing, fly scarce heard amid the guns below.  We are the dead.  Short days ago we lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, loved and were loved, and now we lie in Flanders field.  Take up our quarrel with the foe; to you from failing hands we throw the torch; be yours to hold it high. If ye break faith with us who die, we shall not sleep, thought poppies grow in Flanders fields.” 

Texas has played a major role in our nation’s defense, and many of our Falls County citizens have played a major role in that defense.  Jan Beltran spoke on the contributions made by veterans of Falls County.  She spoke of the many men who had been present during World War I,  World War II, Korean War, Middle East Conflicts, and that many had been held as Prisoner of War.  Some of our Falls County veterans were the first to cross the Rhine River, land on the beaches of Normandy, die on the sand of Iwo Jima and one citizen, Phillip White, was the longest held prisoner of war during the Korean conflict.  Many fought in the jungles of Viet Nam and on the sands of Iraq and Afghanistan where many are fighting there today.

Jan spoke of Jean Craig and Mike Sodek, both of whom passed away this year.  Both were veterans and both members of the American Legion Post 31.  And both were active members of their respective communities.  Fred Ormsby spoke on how much he relied on both of them and how much they would be missed.    

Stella Close read a poem dedicated to the Fallen Heroes: “I do not know your name-nor for which battle you died.  I do not know your home, nor the tears that were cried.  I do not know where you rest-nor the promises broken.  I do not know your uniform and your fears lay unspoken.  But, I know your spirit exists-That your courage is admired, and your sacrifice is honored by each soul that’s inspired.  And I offer you from my heart – thank you, to guardians unknown for offering yourselves for us all that we may keep freedom—our home.  Bless you”.  

The song by Lee Greenwood, “I am proud to be an American” is always a favorite of audiences for Veterans Day and other patriotic events, or just everyday leisure.

That held true for this Veterans Day.  

Judge Elliott introduced the Speaker of the Day:  Spec. Samuel L. Bryant Ret

Spec Bryant is a native Texas, born in Waxahachie and grew up in Italy, Texas.  He served in the United States Army from March, 1999 to March 2013 as an Airborne Infantry man.  He medically retired in 2013.  

During his 14 year career, he served as a Squad Designated Marksman, and was    deployed to Iraq twice and to Alfghanstan once.  

Sam believes in his serving his community just as he served his country.  In 2016 he was elected to represent the citizens of Senate District 22 on the Texas State Republican Party Executive Committee as the district’s committman.  

He states that his biggest take- away from his military experience has been the relationships of lifelong family and never forgetting the brothers in arms who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.  He told the group how much it means to those who have served to have them remembered in different ways and at different times.   

His wife Nicky is also a U. S. Army veteran and they share a 20 month old daughter.  

Trudie Asbury, on behalf of the Falls County Historical Commission presented Spec. Bryant with a double eagle statute in appreciation of his participation.  

The program ended with the playing of TAPS and retiring the colors.  


The Falls County Historical Commission wishes  to thank the many supporters who made this program possible.  To Jay Butler who provided the technical equipment that made the sound possible and to the following who provided valuable support:

First Baptist Church of Marlin Congressman Pete Sessions and staff

Senator Brian Birdwell and staff Representative Kyle Kacal and staff

Judge Jay Elliott HEB

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