Retired Navy Chaplain Jim Looby made note of several details about the Monday morning that was unfolding as he gave his Memorial Day address at Eastlawn Memorial Park in Early.
One detail Looby noted was the heat, and Looby — wearing a short-sleeved, khaki naval uniform instead of the more formal dress whites he usually wears at such events — promised to be brief.
Looby also noted there would be a second Memorial Day service at the Central Texas Veterans’ Memorial. “This is not a competition between the two services,” Looby stressed. “Rather, they’re together with the same goal, the same end, and that is to remember and memorialize our service members.
“Here, we hold our service among the resting places of our veterans. It’s a good place, an appropriate place, to hold this service. But it’s also a good place, and an appropriate place, to hold the service out at the memorial, at the monuments at the park among the stone inscriptions, and the alphabetical listing of all names who gave their lives, in all of our wars.”
At both locations, on a clear, hot morning, Brown County paid tribute to its war dead with observances that celebrated the lives that they lived and honored their sacrifices in combat.
And at both locations, the recent destruction of four of the granite tablets at the Central Texas Veterans’ Memorial, and the efforts to raise funds to replace the shattered monuments, was noted.
“Both of these services are designed to unify us and to bring attention once again to the importance of honoring our veterans,” Looby said. “Every year, we pray, we hope, that we won’t have to do war any more. But until that day comes, you are the keeper of what went on before, and you and I are the corporate memory. We are the ones who remember and who keep alive and in front of people the fact that their sacrifices have been made, and that it is our responsibility to honor that memory and to honor those families.”
Addressing those who have lost loved ones in combat, Looby said, “In the midst of it all, we think about those individuals. Right now, they are forefront in your mind. You see them in your mind’s eye. You remember them on this day, and you always will remember their name. You always will remember their faces.”
At the Central Texas Veterans’ Memorial later Monday morning, several spoke before Dr. Dan Locker, a retired Air Force general, gave the keynote address.
Brownwood Mayor Stephen Haynes said the monuments at the memorial are “a permanent tribute to those who sacrificed for our country. However, there is a greater calling,” Haynes said. “Recently, (four of) these monuments were destroyed. We will rebuild them, but there is something more important we must do.
“I hope that this memorial park will continue to grow and expand, but our granite stones and our military displays will all be for naught if we forget the purpose for which the sacrifice was made. Our challenge today is not merely to build or rebuild monuments. Those are noble objectives. However, the greatest tribute that we can make to our veterans is to promise that we will continue the fight that they have so nobly advanced.”
After Haynes spoke, Harold Stieber, president of the Central Texas Veterans’ Memorial Board, said an Army veteran had just handed him a check for $1,000 toward the rebuilding of the four ruined tablets.
Locker, moved with emotion for most of his address, recalled visiting Arlington National Cemetery and other cemeteries including the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii, as well as American cemeteries in Europe that contain the graves of World War II soldiers.
In the current generation, military members “have accepted the potential of giving their lives for our security,” Locker said. “They patrol the skies, the seas, on our behalf. Freedom will never be lasting without their dedication and willingness to face evil through strength and the belief in American greatness.
“Each generation must teach the next that freedom isn’t free. We must teach that living in America brings great privilege, but also great responsibility. Names on memorials represent real people, with faces, families, loves and aspirations. If you love America, teach our young people to stand and salute the flag, to sing our national anthem, to serve in our armed forces, to learn our amazing history of real heroes and to love these United States.”
Toward the end of the observance, Dr. Steve Kelly, past president of the Central Texas Veterans’ Memorial, announced that the United States World War I Centennial Commission has recognized the Brownwood memorial as an official World War I Centennial Memorial. The commission presented the Brownwood memorial with a $2,000 honorarium, Kelly said.
Stieber returned to the microphone as the observance concluded, saying the destruction of the four tablets “is bringing people together for a common cause. We are receiving contributions from the whole United State to rebuild this memorial. The motto and slogan of the center tablet was ‘lest we forget.’ We shall not forget.”