The Junior Fellows have volunteered at the HEARTS Museum for the past six years, and this partnership has proved to be one of the organization’s more rewarding service activities. This Memorial Day, May 28, 2012, was no different, as the Junior Fellows were able to assist with a great event, meet leading community figures, and hear some heart-tugging music and speeches.
Although we arrived early to help out, there was some downtime, and we spent it well. Veterans were on hand to highlight particular exhibits in the museum and tell us their war stories. The most poignant involved World War II, and were told by veterans of that war.
We also had the chance to meet with some of our elected officials prior to the event. Representative John Otto stopped by, and we were able to get a photograph with him in front of the Colonial War exhibit in the Museum. We’ll be seeing his staff on Friday, when we stop by the Capitol to take a tour and learn about the jobs of legislative staff.
Congressman Kevin Brady also stopped by, and he spoke with us extensively. His last two Huntsville Field Representatives (Brandon Reese and Justin Veillon) were Junior Fellows, so we have had a great relationship with him. He thanked us for helping out, took a photo with the Woodwards and us, and discussed the possibility of us doing a campus event with him in the fall.
Attorney General Greg Abbott also arrived for the reception, and he spent a lot of time with the Veterans. Colonel Etheredge was there, too, sitting with General Abbott, and posing for pictures.
The event began promptly at 7:00 pm, and there was no shortage of military-themed entertainment. The Huntsville Men’s Choir did its typically fantastic job of performing military-themed music and other Americana, while local musician Jan Cole played the Armed Forces Medley for the 300 or so audience members who attended. Our own Christian Bionat stood alongside other Army veterans when she played, “The Army Goes Rolling Along.”
Master of Ceremonies Colonel Yebra captured the spirit of the evening when he discussed sacrifice, pointing out that Memorial Day wasn’t about remembering the past; it was about celebrating the future.
Perhaps the night’s most moving speech came from Congressman Kevin Brady, who emphatically noted that the United States does not “forget those who have lost their lives for our freedom.” As if to punctuate the point, he recognized the “Gold-Star Moms” in the audience, giving each a flower and a hug amidst much applause and more than a few tears.
Congressman Brady’s speech was followed by Jon Sheptock, who sang “Where were you” and “America the Beautiful.”
General Abbott used the lyrics of “America the Beautiful” to thank Sheptock, noting that God had “shed his grace on thee.” In discussing Sheptock, the veterans who have sacrificed for their country, and his own physical challenges, General Abbott reminded the audience that we are “not defined by the challenges we face. We are defined by how we respond to those challenges.”
Following the event, we had the opportunity to visit for a moment with SHSU President Dana Gibson, whose presence in the community continues to grow two years into her tenure as President.
We also had the chance to visit with our friend Chief Justice Tom Gray. We worked with him in the spring semester to hold court–literally–at SHSU, and it was nice to see him again. It was the night before his election (he won, in a close one), but he seemed relaxed and was, as usual, friendly.
It was a remarkable experience for five young Junior Fellows. It was a great opportunity to see those who have fought for our freedom, and to hear encouraging stories that will help us all “respond to the challenges” that we face.