HOUSTON – The Houston Council of the Arts hosted a “Salute to Veterans Day” program and concert on Thursday, honoring those who served with a night of musical entertainment.
The program began with a speaker, Chickasaw County's own Brigadier General Gary Huffman.
“This program is sponsored by several community groups here, and we're small groups, so this program could not have been successful if we had not banded together several months ago and said we want to honor our veterans and we're going to put on a good program and we think we have one for you tonight,” he said.
He spoke about the history of veterans in Chickasaw County.
“Chickasaw County has a rich history of military service. When our early county settlers moved here, included in them were, Revolutionary War Veterans, War of 1812 Veterans, Indian War Veterans and they are buried here. In 1847, we raised the militia units, and went to fight the Mexican War, and that tradition continued through every major conflict. Chickasaw County has provided someone to every major conflict in the world, and we're going to honor that service and sacrifice tonight.”
He went on to detail the number of veterans in the county and some statistics of how they broke down into each conflict.
“There are approximately 20 million living veterans today. About 2 million of those are female. In World War II, 16 million, or 11 percent of our citizens served in uniform. There's still about 240,000 of those World War II Veterans living and most of them are 92, 93, 94, up to 100. That generation is fading quickly. 242, average, die each day. There are about 1,300 of them left in the State of Mississippi, and I could not find a good number of how many living World War II Veterans we have, probably fewer than 30. The number of people in military service shrunk a little bit in Korea. We were down to eight percent of our population serving. During the Vietnam Era, about four percent of our nation served. In the Cold War Era, there were many small conflicts, and our military began to shrink, so about two percent of our nation's citizens served. In 1990, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, and about this time, we were down to about one and a half percent of our nation's citizens, because we were down, we were withdrawing forces from Germany, this was also the first major deployment of the National Guard and the Reservatry since World War II. The next war lasted for more than 20 years, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and other Middle East countries, one half of one percent, that's one out of 200 of our nation's citizens had the courage, the character, the intestinal fortitude to pick up a rifle and face our enemies. We as loyal citizens, we appreciate everyone's service.”
He then shared a story that he said perfectly summarized a veteran's journey.
The story was about a Chickasaw County soldier who served during the Battle of the Bulge in World War II. He became emotional during the story, thinking of this young man who was told, “do not leave at any cost,” and he did just that.
“This young soldier stayed in the same foxhole for 31 days.”
The soldier was evacuated at the end of those 31 days with severe Pneumonia and severe frostbite.
He then read an excerpt from a letter he wrote his wife while in the hospital in Paris.
“When this is all over, I just want to come home, buy a 40-acre farm, a pair of mules, build a small cabin, feed my family and live our lives peacefully and quietly. If there's any one statement that captures a soldier's feelings when he is deployed, it's coming home, as whole as he can be both mentally and physically, and we want to live peacefully and quietly for the rest of our lives.”
He said that veterans are people just like everyone else, and they lead normal lives and have jobs, but they deserve recognition for their heroism in protecting this country. He said that they are the most diverse group of citizens in the country, but they are all bound together by that one common denominator, they all are red-blooded Americans.
After the speaking, then began the music.
The main act was Stephen Len White, of Memphis, who was in the Phantom of the Opera.
He, along with his wife, Deborah, Dr. Steve Coker, Jan Hollingsworth, Melissa Harrelson and the Houston High School Choir, Latara White Below, Katy Pike, Maggie Pike and Dr. Carl Smetko, offered a plethora of musical entertainment for those in attendance.