Tommy Mann Jr.
The Orange Leader
A special day honoring true American heroes will long be remembered.
Several hundred Southeast Texas residents, as many as 800, turned out Sunday afternoon at the Vidor Lions Veterans Park to pay tribute to the men and women of the United States military who have served their country, and, in some cases, given their lives, to preserve freedom. Sunday’s event not only paid tribute to those who have served and fallen in the armed forces, but it was also a dedication and a grand opening ceremony for the park.
Scott Stearman, the artist behind the centerpiece sculpture “Gratitude,” was one of several speakers at Sunday’s event.
“How do you honor a hero?,” Stearman asked the hundreds in attendance. “Saying thank you doesn’t seem like enough. This place (Veterans Park), I think, can be considered a sacred place. This place communicates a big and precious story about our veterans, and this community treasures who you are.”
General Hiram Hale Burr Jr. of the United States Air Force (retired), a 1961 graduate of Vidor High School, was the featured speaker at Sunday’s event.
Burr served in two combat tours during the Vietnam War, which included flying 500 combat missions. He has accumulated 35,000 flying hours in various aircraft, including the F-4 Phantom, F-15 Eagle and the F-16 Fighting Falcon. He served in a command position during “Operation: Desert Storm” and retired from active duty in 1997.
“The true strength in our armed forces is the men and women who have served in our military,” Burr said during his speech which led to a round of applause.
Burr also cited that the national unemployment rate has finally dipped below 8 percent, but it remains above 10 percent for veterans.
“There is no money set aside for veterans. Their funding comes through budget appropriations. I encourage all of you to urge our politicians and especially those in Congress to include Veterans in their budgets in the future.
“I encourage all businessmen here to hire veterans to show our appreciation for their courage, dedication and sacrifice,” he added.
Derrick Bolt, president of the Vidor Lions Club, offered his thanks to all those in attendance and to those who helped contribute so much time and money to make the park a reality.
“Vidor is a great community, and this has been a wonderful project,” Bolt said. “We still have some work to finish before its complete, and then we have other projects we want to do. It just takes time and people.”
The Orange Community Band performed patriotic music, including the song for each branch of the military as the flag for each branch was raised to half staff. Bagpipers performed as well during the raising of the POW flag.
Dozens upon dozens of war veterans and military personnel attended Sunday’s memorable event, which included veterans from five different wars, 18 of which were reported to have served in World War II.