Veterans were honored in Ballinger, Winters and culminated with a ceremony and parade Saturday Nov. 11, as veterans, family and friends gathered to honor them for their service to the country. Celebrations and ceremonies were also held at Ballinger High School and at Winters ISD.

Veterans were honored in Ballinger, Winters and culminated with a ceremony and parade Saturday Nov. 11, as veterans, family and friends gathered to honor them for their service to the country. Celebrations and ceremonies were also held at Ballinger High School and at Winters ISD.

On Saturday the Veterans Day Celebration began on the Runnels County Courthouse Square. The event was organized by Runnels County Veterans Service Officer Sandra Van Zant as well as other community participants. Members of the VFW Post 9196 in Rowena were also present and assisted with the celebration.

Master Sgt. Tom Davis a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, was the keynote speaker during the event. He gave a history of Veterans Day, starting with the beginning of Armistice Day in 1918 and all the way to 1978, when the date was changed to Nov. 11 each year.

“Almost 18 million Americans served in the military since our first Veterans Day in 1954,” Davis said. “Sixty-seven-thousand of those died; nearly two-hundred-seven-thousand were wounded; and thousands more became missing in action or prisoners of war.”

Davis reminded the crowd that veterans served with purpose and sacrifice.

“Today, we thank them all,” Davis said. “To all the veterans here today, thank you. To your families, thank you. To the veterans who are not here today, and their families, we also acknowledge their service and their sacrifices with a thank you. And we remember and thank those who gave their lives allowing us to be here today!”

Following the ceremony, the Veterans Day Parade got underway with many organizations represented including those in Runnels County as well others from San Angelo, Coleman, Winters and Rowena.

The Honorary Parade Marshall was USAF retired Dr. Ernest Charlesworth who attended with his wife Margaret. Other participants included American Legion Post 8 from Runnels County, Central Texas Opportunities from Coleman, the Winters Volunteer Fire Department and representatives from the San Angelo Stock Show and Rodeo.

The parade was followed by complimentary barbecue lunch at the parish hall at St. Mary’s Star of the Sea Catholic Church. Hundreds were served during the luncheon.

“It was a wonderful event and day,” Van Zant said. “The food was wonderful - a great day was had by all.”

On Thursday, the Ballinger High School FCCLA (Family, Career and Community Leaders of America) organized the celebration honoring veterans. As the veterans filed in escorted by students, the Ballinger High School band played a medley of the military songs honoring the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard. The colors were presented by Central High Junior ROTC.

“We are here to honor our service members and to remember their sacrifices and the courage it takes to defend honor, duty and country,” said Emma Duke.

The guest speaker was Ellen McKinnon, who served in the U.S. Air Force from 1990-99 and earned the rank of captain. McKinnon would become the first woman to fly the A-10 Thunderbolt II and served combat tours in South Korea, and Kuwait and served in the 1996 Operation Joint Endeavor Bosnia and Herzegovina.

McKinnon focused on all veterans in her speech saying that she was inspired to join the military by her father, who served in the Navy.

She focused on the idea of “duty, honor and country,” and referenced Gen. Douglas MacArthur.

“America is a great nation and our freedom is real,” McKinnon said. “You don’t have to go very far to find that out.”

She thanked the crowd for attending the event.

“I am grateful to be an American and thankful to all of you,” McKinnon said, “My brothers and sisters at arms thank you for your service.’

On Friday, the crowds gathered at the Winters ISD Special Events Center for the Annual Veterans Day Celebration.

The veterans were honored during the event by the Pride of West Texas Band and by the Winters Select Choir.

The Blizzard Band, under the direction of Phil and Karen Mooney, also played the service song honoring each branch of the military, as soldiers who served in that branch, proudly stood during their hymn.

The event was organized by Fran Kidwell, of Winters Elementary.

During the event, the Patriot award was presented to Randall Conner.

Upon receipt of the award, Conner said he was very surprised.

“I am very honored,” Conner said.