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Parade and ceremony honor Crossroads veterans (video)

By ALLISON MILES
Nov. 11, 2013 at 5:11 a.m.

Dr. Peter Riesz leads the Catholic War Veterans representatives to place their Memorial Wreaths at the Victoria County Veterans Day ceremony.

Did you know ... ?

The Victoria County Veterans Council is always looking for new members, especially younger veterans who have recently returned home. For more information, call Peter Riesz at 361-575-4600.

From his folding chair set up on Main Street, Joe Hughes settled in for Monday morning's festivities. The veteran, in his United States Air Force T-shirt, mouthed the words to "God Bless the USA" as it streamed from nearby speakers.

"The music gets to me," Hughes, 80, said as he dabbed at damp eyes with a handkerchief. "I guess I'm sad about everything."

The Victoria resident, the last remaining survivor of 12 children, was among those who ventured downtown for the Victoria County Veterans Council's 2013 Veterans Day parade. He said he makes it to every parade, mostly to pay tribute to his own siblings who served in the military. With a military background of his own - he said he served four and a half years as a navigator in strategic air command - the holiday holds meaning.

"It's important," he said.

He wasn't the only one who made his way to the patriotic event, however.

Heather Schrank and her tiny daughter, 3-year-old Hadley Schrank, decked themselves out in red, white and blue before heading out Monday. Both enjoy parades, Mom said, but it wasn't the only reason they decided to attend.

"We have a favorite veteran in our family - Hadley's daddy," Schrank said with a smile at the little girl with the bouncy pigtails.

Dad, Carl Schrank II, served in the U.S. Marine Corps, Heather Schrank said, but his oil-field job kept him from attending the day's festivities.

"So we came out for him," she said.

Across from the Victoria County Courthouse, a folding table stood packed with construction paper, crayons and other artistic must-haves. The group behind it all, home-schooled students who recently teamed up with the American Red Cross, encouraged people to make cards for servicemen and women who wouldn't be home for the holidays.

"It feels awesome to give back," said 12-year-old Grace Olson, who manned the booth with her brother, Trey Olson, and friend Quinn Ruschhaupt.

All three children said they had veterans in their family.

Midway through the parade, the group had already garnered 75 to 100 cards, mostly made by children, said Destiny Olson, Trey and Grace's mother.

"I think we'll have even more after the ceremony ends," she said. "It'll get people into the spirit."

Olson said the Red Cross will soon collect the cards and send them to the troops.

While the 10 a.m. parade included area marching bands, veterans' groups, law enforcement and more, it wasn't the end of the day's celebration. The ceremony on the courthouse steps included prayers, patriotic music, the laying of military wreaths and more.

Corpus Christi resident Lazaro O. Camarillo III, the keynote speaker, encouraged veterans to stick together. They were brothers in arms during service, and that shouldn't end after they return home, said Camarillo, founder and president of the United Vietnam Veterans of Texas.

"If you haven't been there, you don't understand," said Camarillo, a recipient of the Purple Heart medal among other honors. "One minute, you're talking to your brother, and the next minute, he's dead."

The U.S. Army veteran, who served during the Vietnam War, received numerous honors through the years, including recognition as Outstanding Veteran for 2009 by the Disabled American Veterans - Department of Texas, according to an introduction to his presentation.

He encouraged those present to make every day Veterans Day - not simply one day a year.

It's a sentiment Espiridion Castillo, who represented Victoria's Air Force Junior ROTC program Monday, said he shared.

Castillo, an Army veteran who served 27 and a half years, said it's important to honor those who serve. Military service isn't easy work, he said, noting he spent much of his time recovering the remains of soldiers who would never return home.

"A lot of what the troops saw overseas, I saw stateside," he said, explaining accidents included helicopter crashes and the like. "What happens over there happens here, too."

Still, he said he found it encouraging that so many turned out to honor the region's veterans. It wasn't all that long ago, he said, that turnout was sparse.

"I'm glad to see it growing," he said, taking a moment to catch his breath and wipe away tears. "This is always a good thing for veterans."

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