As U.S. Marine Jim Jones looked out over the audience in the Gladewater Former Students Association building Saturday, the veteran could count almost a score of heroes in the crowd.
There are many, many others, Jones said, sometimes sequestered away or harder to spot. He’s proud to serve them as he’s able as a veterans hospice volunteer.
“They live in our society,” Jones added, and this society must make every effort not to forget them, not to neglect them, not to ignore their sacrifice and the virtues they exemplify. “It’s been over 50 years, two generations, since we had a draft. Too few of us have skin in the game.”
The ‘son of a soldier and sharecropper’ served from 1966 to 1969, including several campaigns in Vietnam in ’67 and ’68. In addition to a career with ExxonMobil, he’s been a consultant for historical documentaries and movies about the armed forces.
His concern Saturday was not the past but the years and decades ahead.
“I see a future when no one knows any veterans,” Jones lamented. “Patriotism is out of fashion,” in schools and on university campuses, in the halls of government, where veterans’ virtues are often forgotten.
That must change, Jones insisted.
“As war is apparently constant to mankind,” he quoted, “there will always be veterans.”
Saturday’s event, at least, honored them.
GFSA members served a pulled pork lunch to the veterans and their guests with patriotic music from Gary Cox and door prizes for the attendees including a drawing for bespoke quilts. USMC veteran Leon Watson led a traditional POW/MIA observance ahead of the Veteran’s Tribute to the Armed Forces, spotlighting each branch in turn as the gathered heroes stood at their anthem.
“For the most part, they came home and took their uniform off, never to be worn again,” Jones said. Fortunately, their legacy of service continues – in businesses, in boardrooms, in their families, in places they can continue to have an impact and help ensure they, their fellow veterans and those who continue to serve are not forgotten by their society.