The crisp notes of “Reveille” echoed across a cluster of tall oak trees and up through their brightly colored leaves into a cobalt blue sky Monday morning as a large group of men and women — many with graying hair — gathered in front of the White Hall Veterans Memorial to observe the Veterans Day holiday.
The White Hall Veterans Day Program attracted veterans of all ages and from all branches of the U. S. military to honor and pay their respects to fallen comrades and to reflect upon their service to the nation.
“If someone asked me to define a veteran I would say that a veteran is someone who at one point in his or her life wrote a blank check to the United States up to and including their life,” said U. S. Army Col. David Musgrave, commander of the Pine Bluff Arsenal. “Our nation owes a great debt to our veterans. American veterans have proudly carried the torch of liberty since our humble beginnings at Valley Forge.”
In his address Musgrave recounted how the Veterans Day observance we know today had its beginnings in the wake of the devastation wrought upon Europe during World War I.
“This observance evolved from a day set aside to remember the dead of one war to one remembering all veterans and those who served in peacetime,” Musgrave said. “This country has been blessed by people who take their civic responsibility seriously.”
Musgrave had some suggestions on the best way to thank veterans for their sacrifice.
“Take full advantage of all of your rights,” Musgrave said. “Vote in every election. Fulfill your jury duty. Mentor a child. Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper. This is the thanks Americans can give to show veterans that their sacrifice was not in vain.”
U. S. Army Lt. Col. Diego Gonzalez of the Pine Bluff Arsenal recited “It is the Veteran,” and in so doing re-emphasized the meaning behind Musgrave’s words.
‘It is the veteran and not the preacher who has given us freedom of religion,” Gonzalez read. “It is the veteran and not the reporter who has given us freedom of the press. It is the veteran and not the poet who has given us the freedom of speech. It is the veteran and not the campus organizer who has given us the freedom to assemble. It is the veteran and not the lawyer who has given us the right to a fair trial. It is the veteran and not the politician who has given us the right to vote. It is the veteran who salutes the flag. It is the veteran who served under the flag.”
Richard Bailey, professor of music at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, used his trumpet skills to provide the spirited rendition of “Reveille” to open the ceremony as well as the somber tone of “Taps” to conclude, which brought the veterans to attention, hands raised in sharp salute.
White Hall Alderman David Beck served as master of ceremonies.
“I am so proud to be the son of a veteran,” Beck said. “My father served 26 years in the U. S. Navy. I was born at Pearl Harbor [Hawaii]. To see so many people from our small town out today to honor our veterans makes me very proud.”
The 106th Army Band from Camp Robinson in North Little Rock played at points throughout the program, leading to the Salute to Veterans in which veterans from the U. S. Coast Guard, Air Force, Navy, Marines and Army each stood to be recognized in turn as the band played each branch’s anthem.
The White Hall Middle School Choir under the direction of Karen Robinson performed a medley of patriotic standards that included “Grand Old Flag.”