Ceremony at old courthouse honors veterans; plans for Veterans Memorial Park announced

The clouds cleared just in time, allowing the sun to shine bright and provide a picturesque backdrop for the Veterans Day Ceremony at the old Hempstead County Courthouse this morning. Hosted by the Hempstead County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO), the event honored numerous local veterans for their service, and even a few veterans who are residents at Heather Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation were able to be in attendance. When Hempstead County Judge Jerry Crane, a veteran himself, began the ceremony with a few words about the motivation for the day’s activities, he specifically shone a spotlight on those veterans from Heather Manor. “In Vietnam, we had a motto, ‘Leave no one behind,’ and these veterans from the nursing home, it’s important they be here today, too,” Judge Crane said.  

It was especially poignant on this day as all rose to honor the flag, some with hand over heart and some with a salute. Scouts from Troop 5 presented the colors, with Scout Leader Les Patterson providing the accompanying beat on the snare drum, and Shelley Keith sang the national anthem. Then Judge Crane paid special recognition to those volunteer drivers who have devoted many hours to veterans by taking them to appointments, etc., following that up by honoring the veterans themselves, calling them out by each military branch.

Representative Danny Watson, the ceremony’s guest speaker and introduced by veteran Herbert Ross, had some words of recognition to honor the veterans. “No matter which branch, the job path, or years served, raising your hand to serve is a selfless act,” Rep. Watson said. “Service does not end when you hang up the uniform; service has no expiration date. It becomes part of who you are.” Rep. Watson then went on to share how many veterans become active servants of their local communities. He also shared past acts of the legislation to assist veterans, in addition to future dedications of doing more, and said, “Every session we will review the legislature to make life easier for veterans.” Watson encouraged the veterans in attendance to visit with him or any legislator with their ideas. He relayed stories and words of honor for the veterans and concluded his speech by quoting President John F. Kennedy, “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”

As HCSO Sheriff James Singleton brought the ceremony to a close and invited everyone to stay for a meal, he expressed gratitude for the group of youth in attendance. Mrs. Conway and her group of 3rd and 4th grade GT students, from Clinton Primary, were in attendance. Mrs. Conway shared with SWARK.Today that the students had recently studied government, including the different levels, the officials, and the recent election. “In studying government, I thought coming here would be a good opportunity for them to understand more about the people who make it possible for them to have all of this in place,” Conway said.” It’s very important they know that these people can’t be at home to kiss their kids goodnight every night, but they can make it safe so all of us can have the freedoms we enjoy today.”

Sheriff Singleton also announced that the old courthouse grounds would become a Veterans Memorial Park. He said that the current plans include a walking trail, a pavilion, and more. Singleton said the purpose of the project is to “celebrate our cherished veterans.”

After the ceremony came to a close, all guests were treated to a meal from HCSO and the veterans were given small tokens of appreciation donated by local businesses: cups, bags, reading lights, pocket knives, etc. In an interview with SWARK.Today, both Judge Crane and Sheriff Singleton, said that there were so many people, businesses, and organizations who helped make the ceremony a success, whether it was driving the veterans or donating items, and they appreciated all who helped. (Klipsch, Diamond Bank, Farmers Bank & Trust, The First National Bank of Tom Bean, Bank OZK, Red River Credit Union, Brazzel-Oakcrest Funeral Home, Herndon-Pharr Funeral Home, Pafford EMS, Heather Manor, and all the drivers.)

When asked why a ceremony such as this was important on Veterans Day, Sheriff Singleton said, “The people who have given their lives for their country and those who are serving today, it’s important for us to honor them.” He then shared the famous quote by Claudia Pemberton, “America without her soldiers would be like God without His angels.”