PALESTINE — An elderly gentleman with white hair and a soft gaze sat with hands folded in front of the Anderson County Veterans Services Office on Tuesday morning. Mirroring him to his right was another amiable-looking gentleman, composed, wearing a light smile to top off his dark suit.
Both were there, surrounded by friends, family and loved ones, to be presented with awards commending their sacrifice – medals reminiscent of war, long overdue.
Archie Thomas of Palestine, the man with folded hands, served in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II. He was shot down over Brunswick, Germany on April 8, 1944 and spent 13 months as a prisoner of war in Austria.
Jerry Howard, also of Palestine, served in the U.S. Army as an E-5 sergeant during the Vietnam War and was wounded in a village north of Ben Wah in 1968. After completing his military service, he continued to serve his country and state as an employee of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for 23 years until his retirement.
During the ceremony on Tuesday morning, U.S. Congressman Jeb Hensarling commended the officers for their bravery, commitment and unfading sacrifice, coupled with a note of personal gratitude.
“I am a father of a 12-year-old daughter and a 10-year-old son, and they live in a freer, more secure America because of what all our veterans did, including Archie and including Jerry,” the congressman said.
“A nation who forgets its defenders will itself soon be forgotten,” he added, quoting former President Calvin Coolidge.
“Today is one more act that we can do as citizens to say that we will never, never, never forget brave men like Archie and Jerry, and all the other Archies and Jerrys who have served us through the dawn of the Republic. So I am so honored and privileged to be here today to award these brave warriors long-overdue citations and medals for their service.”