For the sixth year, the First Church of the Nazarene in Orange sponsored the annual tribute to veterans at the Heritage Veterans Memorial Plaza, located on the church grounds.

This year, the program moved indoors to the church sanctuary because of a slow constant rain.

The SETEX Veterans Service Group Color Guard posted the colors.

K. Ray McDowell, lead pastor of the church served as the master of ceremonies.

“I have been told that it has never rained for this before. They said that I must have brought the rain with me,” said McDowell, as he introduced the day’s guests, Mayor Pro tem of Orange, Jimmy Sims and Vita Swarers, Legislative Assistant to Congressman Kevin Brady.

Sgt. John D. Edwards, USMC, recruiter for the Orange area, presented a special veteran’s flag to the church. The anonymous donor requested the flag be flown in the honor of area veterans at Memorial Plaza.

Jerry Childress, Veterans Service Officer for Orange County, gave a presentation on how the office assists veterans in obtaining benefits from the Veterans Administration.

“It may take a while, because of the volume that our office handles and the slowness of the VA, but as we train more assistants, it will go faster. Any veteran that needs help with his benefits should contact our office, we are here to help you,” said Childress.

President of the Patriot Guard Riders of Southeast Texas, Sandra Womack, introduced the PGR members that had braved the rain to come to honor the veterans.

“When I first took over the PGR and we were supposed to go to a mission on a rainy day like this one, I made a remark about going in the weather. One of the members said, ‘Sandra, they never did not send a soldier out because the weather was bad. They told them to go and they went, whatever the conditions.’

Since that day I have never hesitated to go. Whenever we are asked we go. We do this to honor the veterans of our country who gave so much to us,” said Womack.

The PGR is a group of dedicated volunteers who give of their time and at their own expense serve as escorts for veterans funerals and stand as an honor guard. They also escort returning veterans as they return home for furloughs or at the end of their service.

“The times we escort returning live soldiers are the fun times, they are the missions that we really enjoy,” said Womack.

The keynote speaker was Dr. George Blake, Pastor of St. John Lutheran Church.

Dr. Blake served 15 years as an enlisted rank in the U.S.A Army and 10 years as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Air Force, retiring as a captain.

Dr. Blake gave a moving presentation about the service of members of the armed forces and the sacrifices they make of themselves, for all of us.

“When I was in Vietnam, Jane Fonda went to North Vietnam and began to speak against the war and all of us who were serving. I saw a picture of her standing on a dike and wished we could drop a bomb on her and blow her away. I do not understand how people like her can be so critical of our military and the sacrifices that our people have made to keep this country free and the greatest country in the world.

“The fact that we have had people willing to fight and die from the first war to this latest one is what has made our country great and the country that the rest of the world should envy. Our men and women who have served in time of war have done so without thinking of themselves, they have thought of our country and that is why we should always honor them and the service they have given,” said Blake.

Bruce McGraw, worship pastor of the church, gave an emotional performance of “God Bless the USA.” As he sang the song, the audience began to stand in reverence and honor.

The near capacity audience was made up largely of veterans and their families. As the song continued, there were arms being raised and some began to sing along. What started as a simple song ended as a moving tribute to veterans.

“I have heard one of the most moving messages I have ever heard. This is my first time to be a part of this service and it has been an honor to be here and be a part of this,” said McDowell as he closed the service.