Veterans Day: a day to honor and celebrate
Veteran’s Day was set aside in 1954 as a day to honor and celebrate the service of all veterans. Locally, we have two amazing veterans who after their years of service in the military have continued to serve by helping their fellow veterans and community.
Marv and Arlene Howland, who have been married almost 22 years, never consider themselves as “I” or “Me” but as a “We.” They work together as a team in a ministry devoted to veterans and their families. Their mission has always been to assure that the men and women of our nation’s military received the honor and respect due to them. Together they have coordinated available resources to provide needed items such as hospital beds, wheelchairs, clothing, food and more. During the time when Marv was employed, he used his own money and from sources connected with his work to augment the charitable efforts of the veterans groups where he was a chaplain.
Marv is a combat veteran of the war in Korea and earned four battle stars. He also served in the New York Reserves and New York Guard as a Non-Commissioned Officer. He was honorably discharged from the Texas Guard as a Captain (Chaplain).
Near the end of the war in Korea, Marv and some of his “buddies” scrounged up pieces of plywood to make an altar and lectern to allow their Regimental Chaplain to have a more “church like” setting in the open fields of the war zone. Most of their services, when they could hold them, were under or around a tree or bushes which would offer them protection from the elements of war.
Arlene served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam era and then later in the Navy Reserves in Orange. She also served in the Texas Guard. Arlene was the first female commander for Post 280 in Bridge City in 1997 and retained the position for five years.
On November 30 Arlene will be honored by the Military Women Committed to Service with a plaque for her dedication and service.
But, no mater what the battle is, whether it be in times of war, illness or trying times, it is courage which lifts and propels a person forward to reach new heights.
“Courage is when you know what is front of you and it causes you to have fear but you move forward towards it anyway,” Marv said.
In 1987, Marv founded what is known as the Southeast Texas Veterans Service Group which is a group of volunteer veterans who consider themselves a ministry and provide military funeral honors. After 20 years, the couple left the group. Over the years they honored more than 3,000 veterans and active duty personnel. Arlene played “Taps” at most of the military funerals.
The group was re-incorporated in 2010 under new leadership and is located in Beaumont. The new group kept the original name but has a new administrator. They are still providing a tremendous service for our deceased veterans and their families. The new group has some new and different policies, but Marv says he is grateful and proud of all the members of both the original and new group. The new group is led by Captain Jerry Kelly, who was a highly decorated combat helicopter pilot during the Vietnam era.
“It is our understanding that other Honors Groups are forming in Southeast Texas and Southwest Louisiana,” Marv said. “God Bless all of them for offering their services free of charge. The more groups there are, the more likely a deceased veteran will receive the honors due to them since one team can hardly keep up with all of them.”
Marv has actively served as chaplain to veterans since 1978. During this time he has provided services such as counseling, weddings, funerals and memorial services which are all at no charge. He has been named Chaplain Emeritus for the MOAA Golden Triangle Chapter.
Together, Marv and Arlene have visited veterans in hospitals and nursing homes. In addition, Marv has officiated or offered prayers at many civic ceremonies such as memorial park dedications, historical markers, flag raising ceremonies and services honoring veterans such as Memorial Day, Veterans Day, Pearl Harbor Day and others holidays. They have also made many presentations to schools, scout groups and civic and Veteran Organizations about our Flag.
They attend St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. Sunday the members will host a special Veteran’s Day recognition service. They will recognize each veteran by their branch of service and the era in which they served. The veterans attending the service are encouraged to wear their uniforms. Following the service, lunch will be served to all attending.
The Howland’s dedication is apparent in everything they do. They have actively cared for the elderly members of the community with needs such as shopping, trips to doctors among many other things.
But, dear to the heart is the opening of the “donation station.” They were both instrumental along with Joe Mann Cheek to establish the blood donor site at St. Paul’s Church. Marv and Arlene are active members of the Civic Advisory Council of LifeShare Blood Canters and help raise funds and recruit blood donors. Marv can no longer donate blood because of his battle with leukemia, but Arlene is a regular donor and gives platelets about every three weeks. Over the past 20 years, she has donated nearly 23 gallons of blood.
Hardwork and dedication to their many causes have made the Howlands a very respected couple. Those who have come in contact with them value their friendship and realize what a gift they are to everyone.
Marv and Arlene Howland devote their lives to the service of others.