AP NEWS

Retired U.S. Army Col. speaks on deeper meaning of holiday

May 29, 2018

A heavy rain storm and 20-minute wait may have slightly delayed the event, but it did not dampen the sentiment of The Woodlands Township’s Memorial Day festival at Town Green Park Sunday.

Director of Community Relations, and Convention and Visitors Bureau President Nick Wolda said the weather is not a game stopper for The Woodlands Parks and Recreation Department.

“We’re set up that way,” Wolda said. “It’s part of the event business and our Parks and Recreations department just does such a fabulous job anticipating so many things, and weather’s just one of those things.”

The event paid tribute to all branches of the military by honoring veterans and active duty service members and featured live music, strolling entertainers and a Community Covenant Signing Ceremony.

Vendors including Marine Corps League, Armatus Reintegration Program, Riva Row Boathouse and E & M Artisans stayed dry under tents as more guests began to show up. Food vendors, such as The Pink Company, Gumbo Xpress and Restoration Barbecue served guests as the rain turned to sun.

Nancy and Jerry Fezza drove from Kingwood to attend the festival. Jerry was in the Air Force, and the couple has attended this event in The Woodlands for a few years, preferring the trip to The Woodlands instead of traveling to downtown Houston for their Memorial Day festivities.

“On Memorial Day, we have to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country, and being a veteran we try to do this as much as we can,” Fezza said. “Anything with the military, I gotta be there.”

The Woodlands resident Bob Padfield is affiliated with Operation Military Embrace out of Hockley and was there representing the care package drop-off both for the troops. Recommended items on The Woodlands Township website for the care packages included Girl Scout Cookies, lip balm and Advil.

Padfield said in the five years he’s been in charge of collection for packages to the troops, the requested items have changed and stayed the same.

“The army runs on coffee, so we get a lot of requests for coffee,” Padfield said. “There are more requests now for female items because there are more female military deployed. The requests are mainly for personal hygiene and snacks and notes from home, letters from home, things that remind them of home.”

Brazilian Claudio Abrahamsohn moved to The Woodlands recently to pursue a nursing opportunity for his wife. He was at the festival to experience his first Memorial Day event ever.

He said he came to the event for the party and to be with his grandchildren who were there “for the ice cream.”

A highlight of the evening was the keynote speaker, Retired U.S. Army Col. Randall M. Pais, a Civilian aide to the Secretary of the Army (Texas-East). Chairman of The Woodlands Township Board of Directors Gordy Bunch introduced Pais with a few words.

“Let us remember to celebrate the lives of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedom on the front lines,” Bunch said. “These courageous men and women will forever be remembered for their bravery and valor. Let us all recognize that if it weren’t for these braves souls, we would not have the freedom and security to enjoy events such as these tonight that allow us to gather as a community.”

Pais spoke of his pride to be asked to be the keynote speaker.

“It is indeed an honor for me to be here this afternoon to remember those service members and families who have given the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our country,” Pais said. “As we reflect on this day and the brave men and women who served our country, I’m reminded me of a special poem ‘In Flanders Field,’ which eloquently symbolizes Memorial Day.”

Pais recited the poem and proceeded to talk of the people he knew personally and from his hometown who did not return from the war. He wondered aloud what their lives would have been like and what they would have accomplished.

“Memorial Day is not just about backyard barbecues, picnics or the latest sale in the mall or the artificial start of summer or in the case of The Woodlands when the polls open,” he said. “It has a much deeper meaning.”

More than 186,000 troops, roughly half of the U.S. Army, are deployed in 140 different countries at this time, he said.

“These individuals are as willing as their forebears to protect the freedoms of this great nation and our people,” he said. “Their legacy and the legacy of all our deceased service members is nearly two and a half centuries old.”

Bunch took the stage to commence the Community Covenant Signing Ceremony, a symbolic measure to show support from The Woodlands Township toward veterans.

Bunch said The Woodlands Township Board of Directors and its staff is committed to striving to make The Woodlands Township the best place for veterans to live.

“When I exited the military, this is the community that I moved directly to,” he said. “I arrived here on the doorsteps of my new hometown with 60 days left of terminal duty, and so this community has proven that out to me and my wife and my family, and now it’s a honor for me to sign on behalf of our township board.”

Julie Cornell is a freelance writer.