WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — For more than a century, Americans have set aside a day in November to honor the men and women of our nation’s armed forces.
In 1918, a ceasefire between the Allied Powers and the Axis Powers was agreed upon, ending years of bloodshed and allowing American soldiers who fought in the first World War to return home. The ceasefire was signed on November 11.
The following year, after the signing of the Treaty of Versailles officially ended The War To End All Wars, the day of the ceasefire was recognized as a day of celebration, commemorating the day our soldiers came home as Armistice Day.
A few decades later, its name was changed to Veterans Day, in order to include those who fought in World War 2 and in later wars fought by the United States. To this day, Veterans Day is observed every year on November 11.
The Wichita Falls Rotary Club honored veterans in our community with a luncheon at The Forum, located on Speedway Avenue on Thursday, November 10, which just so happens to be the birthday of the United States Marine Corps.
Several local leaders attended, and among them was State Representative James Frank, the master of ceremonies during the event. Throughout the afternoon, every veteran in attendance was recognized and honored.
“That’s what’s great about having days like Veterans Day, to make sure that people stop and remember the sacrifices that were made,” Rep. Frank said. “Not just those who gave their lives, the ultimate sacrifice, but those who gave their time in service.”
Men and women who live and work right here in Wichita Falls shared their experiences from their time in military service.
Captain Kenn Hill, a veteran of the United States Army, recalled a three-day battle he was a part of in Vietnam, after which he and his comrades were honored.
“Only six Presidential Unit Citations were awarded during the Vietnam War, and we were one of the first,” Capt. Hill said.
United States Navy veteran LTJG Glenn Tole also served during the Vietnam War and told stories of his days as a Naval pilot.
“For you guys that have never been in the Navy, the location and the movement of ships is highly classified,” LTJG Tole said. “Nobody knows where they are or where they’re going, and that includes the Navy.”
LTJG Glenn Tole said there was a time he saw some people on the deck of a ship he was aboard throwing a football around, only to learn one of them was a former midshipman who’d left the Navy for the National Football League, Dallas Cowboys legend Roger Staubach.
LTJG Tole had much of the crowd laughing during his time speaking, much like another veteran who spoke later, Capt. Bob Hampton, a veteran of the United States Marines.
Capt. Hampton recalled his early days in the U.S. Marines when he spent time in Quantico.
“This colonel walks up to me and says, ‘Hampton, what have you decided to become?’ and I said, ‘Colonel, I really don’t know,” Capt. Hampton said. “He had his hand on my shoulder, and he said, ‘Well son, what did you do in civilian life?” and I said, ‘Well, Colonel, I was a licensed funeral director.”
Retired Lt. Col. Rita Vokes, a veteran of the United States Air Force, said she first joined so she could see the world. Ironically, her first assignment stationed her at an Air Force base in Fort Worth, less than 2 hours from her hometown of Wichita Falls.
However, eventually, her career took her across the country and even across the Atlantic Ocean to Germany, where she spent decades as an Air Force nurse, eventually writing and developing training materials and educating thousands of Air Force nurses across the world.
“I supervised 115 faculty, who taught over 4300 students a year at Sheppard, as well as at 13 different medical centers nationwide,” Ret. Lt. Col. Vokes said.
But it’s not just about how veterans served while they were a member of the Armed Forces, it’s also about how many have become pillars of their community since returning home from military service.
After over three decades in the military, including time spent in Afghanistan, Chief of the Wichita Falls Police Department Manuel Borrego is just one of the thousands of veterans that live and work in Wichita Falls.
Chief Borrego spent several years in the U.S. Marine Corps, who celebrated its birthday on November 10, and he said his time with the Marines shaped him into the man and community leader he is today.
“We had a history in my family of military service,” Chief Borrego said. “When I graduated from high school, I joined the military, and I really think it helped mold me into learning some leadership skills and just how to survive in tough environments.”
Rep. Frank said no matter what a veteran end up doing when they return home, almost all of them really want one simple thing.
“Most veterans just want us to remember,” Rep. Frank said. “Just want us to remember the service that they’ve had and sacrifices that they’ve had and often, I think too often, we forget.”
There’s a very simple, yet powerful way to let them know that they’re remembered, to make sure they know what they’ve done for the United States will never be forgotten.
“Individuals in the community that will remember, reach out to, and love on, veterans that are struggling,” Rep. Frank said. “It’s up to each one of us, really.”