As a massive American flag blew in the wind, the sounds of youth singing “God Bless the USA” filled the air and people of all ages greeted each other with hugs and handshakes, the residents of Austin County were reminded of the sacrifices made by those who served our country.
Bellville High School graduate Zachary Jones, now a major in the U.S. Marine Corps stationed in Hawaii, addressed the group Saturday at Veterans Memorial Park.
“It is a special thing to come home,” said Jones, who is currently stationed in Hawaii with his wife and two children. “The concept of tribe is certainly something that every veteran here today understands.”
Jones thanked those in attendance for their service.
“When you pass these veterans in the street, please remember, as Col. Hal Moore put it, they were soldiers once, and young … always fighting one battle while planning the next,” he said.
Jones’ marine squadron trains hard every day for uncertainty – from basic physical fitness to operating robotic aircraft over chemical battlefields, he added.
“We train as if today is Dec. 6 or Sept. 10,” he said.
He closed by thanking the Bellville and Austin County community for their support of the military and his family.
“It may take a neighborhood to raise a child, but it takes a tribe to raise a soldier, a sailor, an airman or a marine,” he said. “We are that community … This is my home. If you are here today, you are my tribe and always will be.”
Earlier in the week, veterans were honored at a touching ceremony in the Sealy High School gym. The vets were escorted into the gym by students and treated to a luncheon afterward.
The event’s speaker was Travis Bush, a 2006 Sealy High School graduate who served eight years in the U.S. Marine Corps. He served around the world in locations including Japan, Singapore and Afghanistan.
Bush said his definition of a veteran is someone who “decided to leave their family, leave their homes and go fight for a country they love, not just for the country but for each and every one of you, so you all have the freedoms that you enjoy today.”
The young Marine said he joined the military because of the terrorist attacks that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001.
“I was in eighth grade … and in eighth grade, I told my parents I was going into the Marine Corps,” he said. “They kind of laughed, but I did it.”
Bush spent seven months in Afghanistan and came within yards of a bomb.
“I’m 23 years old and I just came this close to death,” he said. “What have I really accomplished with my life? What have I done? I fulfilled one dream of mine; I became a United States marine. I needed to do more with my life.”
He began lifting weights and placed third in a Strongman competition. Then he decided he wanted to become a high school history teacher.
“Hopefully one day I will get to teach here at Sealy High School,” he said. “I want each and every one of you to follow your own dreams. Set a path for yourself. When you reach that dream, reach for another dream. Don’t just stay there.”