Decorated soldier honors fellow veterans (video)
Jennifer Lee Preyss
May 27, 2013 at 12:27 a.m.
Described as the most decorated military man in Victoria, Army Sgt. Israel Tames saluted fellow servicemen and women Monday afternoon at Victoria's American Legion Hall, Post 166.
Over a bowl of hot stew and cornbread, prepared at no cost for Victoria's area veterans, Tames sat down at the dinner table and discussed the importance of honoring America's fallen soldiers on Memorial Day.
"We are not the heroes. We are survivors," said Tames, 78. "The heroes did not come back. They made the ultimate sacrifice."
Tames said he's pleased to spend time remembering the sacrifices of American military service men and women. It's every American's duty to never forget where the country would have been without the bravery of those who gave their lives for their country, he said.
That's why he attended the Memorial Day ceremony Monday morning at the DeLeon Plaza gazebo.
About 100 area residents attended the event, which included the presentation of colors, the reading of 146 names of recently deceased veterans and the placing of wreaths by 13 area military veterans associations, including the World War I Veteran Association and the American Ex-Prisoners of War.
Catholic War Veterans, St. John's Post 1269, fired a three-volley salute; Charles Haubolt played taps.
The event's keynote speaker, Martin Garcia, reminded the crowd that freedom is afforded to the American people because of the sacrifices of military servicemen and women.
"You can see the cost of freedom is not free. We must never take our freedom for granted," Garcia said. "All of you are heroes because you have not forgotten what this day signifies."
Tames, a native of Victoria, entered the Army at 17 years old and served two tours in Vietnam and one in Korea. He has been issued the nation's third-highest honor the Silver Star Medal, five bronze stars, five Purple Hearts and two combat infantry patches - one from Vietnam, and one from Korea. He's been wounded five times and still recalls the shrapnel caught beneath the surface of his skin with patriotic fervor. He retired after 20 years in the military and volunteers as often as possible for veterans' causes.
He's as passionate about the military and all that America represents today as he was 60 years ago when he first enlisted.
"The truth is I went into the military because when I was a young boy, I saw this handsome person with a crisp uniform that didn't have a crease anywhere in it. He looked sharp as a day, and I said that's what I want to be one day," Tames said. "I was a professional soldier for 20 years, and that's the way I feel I have done my duty."
Orby Ledbetter, 91, was also present at Monday's ceremony. He was a prisoner of war in Germany during World War II for 19 months and said he was pleased with Monday's patriotic ceremony.
"It's great every year, and this year was good, too," he said.
He's attended the event every year for the past two decades because he believes it's his duty to honor the fallen and those who continue to fight for their country.
"We honor them because some never had the chance to live," he said. "There's 146 people who died this year (serving this country), but there are graveyards full of young people who never had a chance to live. I had a chance to live, and I had a good life."