Today, myself and three other volunteer NonCommissioned Officers of my Battalion headed out early to Menard, TX to participate in the commemoration of the 250th anniversary of the San Saba de Santa Cruz mission. This historic site has had its location recently confirmed and archaeologists and Texas historians will be doing further research into the dig. We were to serve as a color guard for a parade in its honor.

We arrived on time, more or less (more if we had to be there at 0730, less if we had to be there at 0715; I had emails that said either, but ultimately it didn't matter). We did some juggling of the transportation, shuttling soldiers and dropping off the van. Some elements assumed we would have a dedicated driver who would stay with the vehicle but we didn't have that luxury available; I was lucky to find three volunteers to participate as it is.

We stood at the parade start site, near the site of the mission, for what seemed like hours: roughly 1.3 hours, actually. They bussed many inhabitants of the small town out to that site for the parade, really more of a procession, into the town to the local Catholic church. As more of the celebrants appeared, we were called upon more and more... to pose for photographs. There we were, in our ACUs, two of us with green canvas flag harnesses on. The call for snapshots peaked when the Soldados, a trio of retired hispanic American military members doing Spanish colonial reenacting, showed up to march behind us. Multiple pictures of us with the Soledados, and some with a Fransiscan brother who snuck in, were taken.

I felt a little odd as I reflected upon our role in the celebration. Part of that was due to the Knights of Columbus "color guard" being given precedence over us; we had the US and Army colors, and they were carrying the "national colors", or so I was told. It turned out that the "national colors" were for the nations of Spain, Mexico and Texas, apparently. But, no, more I'm referring to our role representing the entire United States Army both as a color guard but more importantly as an element of that fighting force that these local people could thank.

I always feel uncomfortable receiving thanks for "your service," "for everything you do for our country." Actually, although each of us had played a part in the war on terror, only one of us had actually deployed in direct support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. I suppose the common layperson doesn't recognize the signifigance of combat patches on the the ACU, but probably more importantly it doesn't matter. We really do serve as a front for them to be able to try to express some gratitude and "support the troops."

Another factor of oddity was that we were representing the United States Army (which really had nothing to do with this mission 250 years ago), but the entire procession was angling as a Roman Catholic religious service. Personally, it was refreshing to say a decade of the Rosary before we began, and my Mormon colleague didn't complain... just an odd note that we were there in an official governmental capacity.

A 3.1 mile "march" to the town, the Soldados drum beating behind us the entire way. Cracking wise while the cameras weren't on us, I wondered aloud why we had done the photo op beforehand since there were some photographers who seemed intent on shuttling ahead of us to take multiple pictures for the entire event; they only lasted for the first mile. We fought boredom under our breaths, saw some elk, griped about the unfamiliar weight of the flags and rifles. We sweated (man, it was humid), and we walked.

We didn't stay for the festivities; our exit had been arranged by our staff office. We paid respects to the retired Colonel who had requested our presence in the first place and drove home.



I had insisted, well before I briefed the entire schedule, that we would stop at Venison World Link on the way back. This did occur, but only after I bought the guys some Dairy Queen for lunch. Ducking into VW afterwards, I grabbed a pound of frozen ground buffalo, a venison summer sausage and an elk summer sausage. I briefly browbeat one of the other SSGs in an attempt to get him to patronize the shop... and the lady running the store grabbed out some "Texas Venison Snack Sticks" and gave them to us as gifts. This was after another patron of the establishment came by and shook our hands in thanks as well...

I guess I should get used to it if I'm going to wear my uniform about.



Comments
on Jun 10, 2007

Yes, you should get used to it.  In my experience, small-town America is very appreciative and grateful of it's military members and is't afraid to show that gratitude.  Both Dave and I have been thanked for our service - and when I explained that I wasn't active duty and therefore felt like I didn't qualify for that appreciation, I was told in quite an abrupt (but kind) manner that I gave just as much to this country as my husband did and  I shouldn't forget that.

I'm very proud of you, Pseudo. 

on Jun 10, 2007
You deserve the thanks and more.
on Jun 10, 2007

  Adam  Kinser, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2003  was a home town man and was honored here in Rio Vista, by the township. We renamed the Post office after him June 1st.

 

on Jun 10, 2007
You should have brought the boys out to the lake when you got back, there were quite a few kids out there and the food was quite good.
on Jun 10, 2007
I was thanked recently by an older lady when I went to Wal-Mart, for me and Nbs. It meant alot, especially right now, but it does take some getting used to. Even more so when I'm not the one serving.

Good for you, pseudo. I hope you enjoy that venison, too.
on Jun 10, 2007
You sure do get to do some cool stuff. You should keep a scrapbook of all these things for your boys. I'm sure they think their Army guy dad is very cool.

I got thanked by General Peter Pace's wife on Tuesday. Yep, General Pace.

I attended a Deployment Town Hall meeting where he was the speaker and I got to shake hands with him and got a hug and a smooch on the cheek from his wife. He gave me JCOS coins for all three of my babies.

on Jun 10, 2007
You should have brought the boys out to the lake when you got back, there were quite a few kids out there and the food was quite good.


Holy crap! I'm embarassed... I forgot all about it! Honestly, though, I was so dehydrated after the fact, we (the NCOs) were all delirious for the drive home. Took a big nap that afternoon and I think the boys and I have low-grade fevers today (unless they got too much sun yesterday, too).
on Jun 11, 2007
Sounds like a good trip (aside from the heat).
on Jun 12, 2007
You guys who remain in uniform deserve all the accolades, thanks, and gifts that you can get. I look back on my time serving in the Army as frustrating, difficult, a constant headache, a bureaucratic nightmare... but giving six years to my country was the proudest achievement I've done.
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