Veterans Day celebrated at Ballinger High School

Bill Hancock
Runnels County Register
Rowena's VFW post 9196 held a free bbq lunch for veterans and their families. The meal consisted of smoked sausage, tender smoked brisket, potato salad, pinto beans, and all the trimmings, with a magnificent cake for dessert.  Perhaps the most moving ceremony was held at Ballinger High School, put on by the school's FCCLA chapter.

According to the US Census, there are 10,277 citizens in Runnels County. Of those residents, 664 are veterans, a percentage of 7% of the county's population. Overall, in the United States, fewer than .04% of 1% serve in the military. That is less than 1/2 of 1% of the population. Runnels County residents exists well ahead of the power curve when it comes to service to their country.

Ballinger native son, William Justin Byler, made the ultimate sacrifice in Mahudiyah, Iraq on October 31, 2005, when he and 3 other soldiers were killed by an improvised explosive device. The 16th anniversary of Byler's sacrifice was just a few days ago. Byler was 23-years old.

Byler was assigned to the assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, Fort Campbell, Ky.; The improvised explosive device detonated near his Humvee during patrol operations. Also killed were Sgt. 1st Class Jonathan Tessar, Pfc. David J. Martin and Pvt. Adam R. Johnson.

Byler was born on Feb. 13, 1982, in Ballinger, Texas, to Will and Karen Jansa Byler. He graduated from Ballinger High School in 2000 and enlisted in the U.S. Army in August of 2002.

If you were a veteran in Runnels County on Veterans Day, the love and appreciation were apparent everywhere, from flags set up along streets in the communities, to events at community centers and schools. Although Memorial Day is for those who perished in the service of the country, the sacrifices of service members like Byler are still remembered on Veterans Day. A stark reminder that freedom is not free.

Rowena's VFW post 9196 held a free bbq lunch for veterans and their families. The meal consisted of smoked sausage, tender smoked brisket, potato salad, pinto beans, and all the trimmings, with a magnificent cake for dessert.  Perhaps the most moving ceremony was held at Ballinger High School, put on by the school's FCCLA chapter.

Rowena's VFW post 9196 held a free bbq lunch for veterans and their families at the Ballinger Community Center. The meal consisted of smoked sausage, tender smoked brisket, potato salad, pinto beans, and all the trimmings, with a magnificent cake for dessert.

The lunch was co-sponsored by American Legion Post 8 and the Runnels County Veteran's Affairs Committee. The Veteran's Affair Committee provided the meal.

Perhaps the most moving ceremony was held at Ballinger High School, put on by the school's FCCLA chapter.

Ballinger High School's FCCLA Chapter put on a Veterans Day ceremony in the auditorium at the high school. The ladies of the FCCLA chapter dressed formally for the event, greeting the veterans at the front doors of the school as each veteran entered.

Students from junior high and high school gathered in the high school's auditorium to honor veterans from throughout the community. Veterans were met at the door by members of the FCCLA chapter, who escorted arm-in-arm each veteran to the front row of the auditorium.

The ladies of the FCCLA chapter were dressed elegantly in dresses and heels, smiling as they escorted each veteran to the front of the auditorium. It wasn't hard to see the appreciation on the face of each veteran as they came in the front doors to find the students waiting on him or her.

Ballinger High School's FCCLA chapter hosted a Veterans Day event at the school. Students from the junior high and high school gathered in the auditorium to pay tribute to veterans. FCCLA chapter President, Christy Zhuang, gave the welcome speech at the start of the ceremony.

The ceremony started off with FCCLA chapter president Christy Zhuang welcoming the veterans, their families, and other guests to the event. The high school band filled the stage behind Zhuang.

Zhuang's welcome address was followed by the high school's Air Force JROTC Presentation of Colors. Once the colors had been presented, student Kira Garcia sang the Star Spangled Banner. After the national anthem, Alyssa Aguero led the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by the Texas Pledge.

Mr. Caleb Virden led the Invocation, followed by a fascinating reading of the history of Veterans Day by student Esly Chavez. It was an informative, thorough history of Veterans Day and its significance. Madison Nash followed Chavez, giving the history of the Armed Forces Medley.

Ballinger High School's FCCLA chapter put on a Veterans Day Event in the school auditorium. The BHS Ensemble performed a moving version of "We Shall not Sleep."

Once Nash completed giving the history of the medley, the Ballinger High School band played the medley from each branchof service: Coast Guard, Navy, Marine Corps, Army, and Air Force. Each veteran was asked to stand when the medley from his or her military branch was played. Following the service medleys, the Ballinger High School Ensemble sang a deeply moving rendition of the hymn "We Shall Not Sleep."

Rowena's VFW post 9196 held a free bbq lunch for veterans and their families. The meal consisted of smoked sausage, tender smoked brisket, potato salad, pinto beans, and all the trimmings, with a magnificent cake for dessert. Perhaps the most moving ceremony was held at Ballinger High School, put on by the school's FCCLA chapter. The guest speaker was VFW 9196 Post Commander Lt. Col. Swecker, a 22-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force.

Student Danae Moya followed the hymn with the Introduction & Recognition, followed by a speech from guest speaker Lt. Col. Swecker of Rowena's VFW. Swecker served 22 years in the U.S. Air Force, from 1988-2010.

The Meaning of Taps was read by student June Burick once Swecker's speech was over. The thorough history of Taps shed light on why so many veterans hold those 24-notes so dear. The FCCLA Trumpet Quintet followed the presentation by playing Taps.

At the conclusion of Taps, the colors were retired by the JROTC cadets, with closing comments given by FCCLA student Zamira Smith.

The veterans were escorted out of the auditorium by the FCCLA students and invited to a reception in the school's library. The refreshments were cooked and prepared by the FCCLA students.

The FCCA Advisor is Mrs. Kinsley Lester. The members of the school's FCCLA are: President - Christy Zhuang; 1st Vice President - Alyssa Aguera; Vice President of Finance - Evan Strube; Vice President of Membership - Danae Moya; Vice President of Programs - Zamira Smith; Vice President of Public Relations - June Burick; Vice President of Development: Esly Chavez; Vice President of Competitive Events - Madison Nash; Vice President of Parliamentary Law - Kyleigh Andrews.

BHS Principal - Leslie Griffis; BISD Superintendent - Jeff Butts.

Other Veterans Day events were held around the county. If you'd like your event posted, you can email photos and comments to: BHancock@Gannett.com.