Veterans are recognized and celebrated by many across this nation. One remarkable effort, in that regard, is the annual Ellis County Veterans Appreciation Day and the poignant memorial in tribute to their service. The following individuals and groups express a community’s gratitude for their devotion on our behalf.
Perry Giles is one of two initial Waxahachie residents instrumental in the conception and creation of a beautiful monument to our military forces. Dedicating three years in the search for names of veterans for inscription on the memorial, Perry has diligently visited Ellis County graves of all those killed in the line of duty. Each year, he extensively researches and writes the personal story of a veteran’s commitment for his country – in commemoration of a life lived and duty served. In his words, “in visiting the graves and family, in reading the headstones, and creating a mind’s vision of these veterans, they are all so much more than merely a listed name.”
His steadfast dedication of time, talent, and labor has produced a memorable memorial conveying respect, gratitude, and honor for the sacrifice and dedication of our military men and women.
David Hudgins is another Waxahachie resident who has played a key role in achieving this vision of honoring their veterans. A respected member of the community, he, along with Perry Giles, spent years in the effort to create a modern-day memorial and has faithfully served the city of Waxahachie as Fire Chief for 26 years. Retiring in late 2012, he remains active on the board of the Ellis County Museum, as well as a member of the Waxahachie Optimist Club—one of its oldest service organizations and a non-profit established in 1946. His dedication additionally remains resolute in his involvement with the annual Ellis County Veterans Appreciation Day tribute.
An amateur historian, David has written a series of columns of historical facts relating to the War Between the States. He is a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans group (O. M. Roberts) and his love of history parallels his total devotion to honoring the memory and service of veterans.
Neal White has served both his community and its publication for 16 years. During his tenure as Editor of Waxahachie Newspapers Inc., the news team has earned more than 200 industry awards for journalism excellence, in addition to numerous local honors. Their annual tribute to our military forces provide poignant images, insight, and stories on behalf of Veterans Day and the Ellis County Veterans Appreciation Day event. His community activities include service on the board of directors of many organizations, including Board Chairman and Leadership Chairman for the Waxahachie Chamber of Commerce.
Majoring in journalism, Neal began his career as a Navy journalist with service aboard the USS Buchanan DDG-14, with the Navy News This Week, the Office of Naval Public Affairs San Diego, and as combat photographer attached to the Naval Office of Information Midwest. As a former member of the military, he understands all too well the devotion and sacrifice of veterans and their families in serving our country.
Additional key participants include – among others – the Ellis County Veterans Ceremony Committee, Department of Public Safety, Texas Civil Defense, civic and military representatives, Boy Scouts, church and auxiliary groups, a myriad of volunteers, and ordinary citizens in a joint effort to honor our military.
Yet another individual played a pivotal role in the beginning of this journey – an unexpected source who contributed the first monument donation while plans were still in the initial phase and years from dedication.
42nd and 44th Governor of Texas, serving from 1979 to 1983 and again from 1987 to 1991, he was the state’s first Republican governor since Reconstruction.
Governor Clements’ involvement with the planned memorial evolved from his commission of the monument architect to create his own grave-site headstone. Visiting periodically to view the progress, this initial support and generosity by the Governor for the planned monument would assist the early development of the project to honor and pay tribute to veterans.
An additional political figure would also have a connection with the inauguration of this Veterans monument. In the period between a Texas governor and a President-Elect, Governor George W. Bush provided a quote for the Ellis County veterans memorial.
George W. Bush served as the 46th Governor of Texas from 1995 until 2000, when he resigned as governor following his election as the 43rd President of the United States.
“This is more than just a monument. It is a history lesson for us and for future generations. It teaches that with freedom comes responsibility to earn this priceless inheritance by being good citizens, by being good parents, by living lives of decency and compassion and remembering that we as a nation are forever humbled by the sacrifice and service of our veterans. ” George W. Bush
“We stand on the backs of their sacrifice. Their history is our tradition, as long as there are Americans to remember…”