They were young boys who went off to war almost seven decades ago, and Wednesday, Veterans Day, 19 World War II veterans were honored for their service.
In two ceremonies, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, the men were presented the Patriotic Medallion of Honor and Respect. Wednesday’s ceremonies were the ninth and 10th such events held in Brownwood since November, 2007. Ernest Cadenhead, said the count of those honored is approaching 100. A 1993 act of congress provides that every World War II veteran is deserving and entitled to the medallion.
Now grandfathers, or great-grandfathers, the men came to the lectern set up at the Depot and sat quietly, stoically, while their war stories were told, their lives since coming home briefly presented. Then, retired Navy Chaplain James Looby put the medallion, hanging on a red, white and blue ribbon around their neck.
Things that might have mattered then “on their service record” got a chuckle as often as not from the audience in the almost filled Depot. Some admitted they had not received medals for good conduct. A few more admitted why.
Those honored on Wednesday, in the morning ceremony included Lester Curry, C.F. Allison, Chester Damron, Jack Gorden, Roy P. Ferguson, C.T. Laxson, Grady Thompson, Homer B. Allen Jr., W. Sutton Gable and Clifford L. Bessette, who was a late-comer.
The nine veterans honored in the afternoon included Odell Duncan, Herman Drinkard, Charles Cole, James W. Johnson, Joe Bob Morgan, Arvel W. McClure, L.B. Bowman, Cameron Warren and A.W. Rendleman.
Two veterans, Laxson and Thompson, sat together when it was their turn to be awarded their medallions. They had been boyhood friends on Fourth Street, and they and their brothers had all gone off to war when their time came.
“Brownwood should be proud of the boys from Fourth Street,” Cadenhead read from Thompson’s sheet.
Herman Drinkard received his medal and his brother, Jerry, had received his a couple of years before.
“When this is over, will you take our picture together?” Jerry asked a photographer.
And then as the group of nine recipients from the afternoon were seated for their group photo, the photographer encouraged them to smile.
“The war’s over,” she said.
“May not be yet,” said one. “We’ve still got to go home this afternoon, and we don’t know what we’ll find.”
Cadenhead said it almost never fails that during one of the ceremonies, as the service record is being read there will be a gasp from a family member who will then murmur, “You never told me that.”
“There’s a lot of history we find out when we talk to these veterans. A lot of things happened and we shouldn’t forget the service to our country these men have given.
“We say this every time, and it’s true,” Cadenhead said. “We must never forget that without the loyalty, sacrifice and patriotism of those who served and are being honored with this medallion, this nation might not exist and our lives could have been vastly different.”