“It’s a great day to be an American,” Lt. Col. Kim Tully of the National Guard’s 111th Engineer Battalion said as she welcomed several hundred guests Saturday to Heart of Texas Day at the Camp Bowie Training Facility.

“And it’s a great day to be in Brownwood. I don’t think there’s a more patriotic town in the country.”

Families from throughout the area, many of them with ties to the Guard, swarmed the expansive terrain of Guard’s training facility on Flag Day to visit three dozen booths, watch the Brownwood Fire Department cut up a car with its hydraulic rescue device and enjoy games, hot dogs and refreshments.

But the afternoon closed on a serious note.

“It’s hot out here, I know,” battalion Capt. Jeff Nash told the audience, “but there are men and women overseas who are sweating, too. Thank you for sweating along with them.”

Nash asked for a moment of silence to honor those who had fallen in service, and then recognized Blue Star families, those who have loved ones currently deployed or will have soon; Silver Star families, those who have loved one who were injured in combat; and Gold Star families, families who have lost a loved one in combat.

Five families with ties to Brown County who have lost a member since the war in Iraq began were recognized, and two area soldiers who have been injured were honored. The dead are Jay Aubin, Mario Castillo, Craig Ledsome, Marieo Guerrero and Wesley Burkett. The injured are Pfc. Brent Cothran of Brownwood, who was present, and Staff Sgt. Shilo Harris of Coleman, who could not attend.

In front of the lectern was a sign with the names of all the Brown County residents who have died in combat since World War I, and Nash paid tribute to their sacrifice in naming the five who died in Iraq.

“The local heroes of past wars are now joined by these five Americans,” Nash said. “Our admiration of their sacrifice is abiding. We are able to assemble here today because of them.”

The closing ceremony also featured a formal retirement of several worn and faded American flags, performed in the way prescribed by law. The flags were incinerated with the oversight of members of Isham Smith-Scott Brothers American Legion Post 196 of Brownwood, and presided over by Jerry McSwain, Ed Devery and Ernest Cadenhead with the assistance of members of Boy Scout Troop 14 and the Brownwood Police Explorers.

“It’s been our honor to welcome you here today for open house,” Nash said in closing. “But we want you to remember, we are open to you on other days as well. Come and see us whenever the armory is open.”