“We sleep safely at night because rough men stand ready to visit violence on those who would harm us.”
The sounds of the sirens wailing in the distance let me know the heroes were close by.
Off to the north, I could see the procession heading my way—the police motorcycles, the busses, the Gonzales. I felt goose bumps knowing what and who were in that procession headed directly my way.
It was Warriors Weekend, and four busloads of soldiers, veterans and wounded warriors were headed my—and our—way. I stood at attention on the side of highway in front of McCoy’s and saluted the busses with the men who had served at Ft. Hood and many other military bases around the country and around the world.
Inside those busses were brave men and women who had seen hell in Vietnam, Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan. They had stood their post, carried out their mission, and done their duty. Many of them had physical scars to prove their loyalty, courage and service. Many of the scars could not be seen, because only a veteran who has seen combat knows what shadows haunt their memories.
As I stood there by the side of the road, I noticed many of the motorcycle riders were saluting back. Many gave the thumbs up sign, many beeped their horn, and everyone was smiling. People in the convoy were blaring music, mostly Lee Greenwood’s God Bless the USA. Some were yelling “USA! USA! USA!” I had to swallow hard. I was proud of these men and women.
As soon as the convoy cleared to make its triumphant appearance in downtown Gonzales, I hopped into my Jeep and motored over to the Elks Lodge where the community had planned a nice lunch and welcome for these warriors and heroes.
As I pulled into the Elks parking lot, I smiled at the site of Scott Dierlam and his entire State Farm office staff standing on the road waving American flags. After parking my car, I saw members of the VFW lined up waiting to greet the warriors. So was Sheriff Matt Atkinson. The mayor and many members of the Gonzales city council were there. Greg and Joan Griffin were there holding a Come and Take It flag. Members of the Gonzales Classic Cruisers were lined up with their cars and waving flags. Aw, Gonzales, you should have been there. It was a proud moment for our community.
As the busses arrived, and the soldiers got off the busses, they were greeted with cheers and warm handshakes. There were lots of hugs.
“Thank you for your service!” and “Welcome to Gonzales!” were heard everywhere.
Inside, the men and women were treated to a nice introduction and welcome from our Mayor Connie Kacir, serenaded by the high school band, and fed a sumptuous meal by volunteers from the Elks and the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). The meal was cooked by the Young Farmers Group.
As the soldiers were eating, I walked around the tables and asked people where they were from and what they thought of their experience.
These men and women were a cross section of America, coming from the skyscrapers of New York, to the breadbasket of the Plains, from sea to shining sea and all points in between. Of course, there were lots of warriors from Texas—Victoria, Dallas, Houston, Lubbock—they were all here on this day.
I asked many of them where they had served—most of them had been in Afghanistan, Iraq and Kuwait. There were a few who had served in ‘Nam, but they were smiling broadly and enjoying the attention. It was good to see those men achieving some peace after all they have been through.
But the one thing that was consistent throughout was the soldier’s belief that all they had done was do their duty. Nothing more; nothing less. They were proud of their service, but they didn’t think they were heroes. I told them they were, shook their hand, and smiled. I heard many of the Army guys laugh after I left their table as they saw the United States Marine Corp shirt I was wearing. Semper Fi, Doggies.
But all these brave men and women who served our country faithfully were excited to be on the Warrior Weekend and especially to be in Gonzales. They could not believe the hospitality and the great food they were receiving in Gonzales. It made me proud.
At the end, the benediction of this wonderful tribute to our warriors/soldiers/heroes came when Tourism Director Clint Hille gave a little speech about the history of Gonzales and the role our town played as the birthplace of the Texas Revolution. After his speech, he told the warrior soldiers that when they all left, they would take a piece of Gonzales with them in the form of the Come and Take It flag.
The soldiers roared their approval, clapped enthusiastically, and smiled broadly. That’s how we roll in south Central Texas America. Come and Take It. Oorah.