Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Celebrating Veteran Stories Texas Style

By William Harris

The Lone Star State has a special relationship with World War II veterans. Texas sent more of its citizens off to the war than any other state. It also became a major training center for new recruits and a industrial power for the war effort. Today there are many organizations that support the state's veterans and educate school students about the history of a period that dramatically changed the face of the state. Veteran stories Texas are an important part of the collective memory.

Before the war, this huge area was almost entirely rural, women were expected to stay home and raise a family, and everyone had been hard hit by the Great Depression. Texans responded enthusiastically to the call to arms, women joined the workforce in the factories, and populations shifted to urban centers. Training facilities for new recruits sprang up, swelling the population.

Over a million and a half new recruits were trained in the state. While 22,000 citizens gave their lives to the fight for freedom, the permanent population grew by one third. Famous Texans who returned from the war included Dwight D. Eisenhower, who became President, and Audie Murphy, the most decorated soldier in the Army. Murphy later starred in several popular Hollywood films.

In 2005 the Texas Historical Commission launched the 'Texas in World War II Initiative'. This project celebrates the sites and stories of the region and its people in the second world war. The initiative seeks to inform the public and preserve this rich heritage. Policies focus on education for middle and high school students. Although the stories include memories of service overseas, the experiences of the home front are emphasized.

The metropolitan area of Bryan and College Station TX has many resources for veterans. These twin cities are located in a Texan's idea of 'easy access' to Austin (85 miles), Houston (100 miles), Fort Hood (90 miles), and the veterans hospital in Temple (70 miles). The web page for College Station has multiple references to veteran services.

Brazos County, home to College Station, is also where a support group called 'Brazos Valley Cares' holds fundraisers for organizations that serve veterans. They raise money for the Texas A&M 'Veterans Recovery & Support Center' and San Antonio's 'Family Support Center". Check out their web page to see what else they do.

All veterans have stories to tell, although some returnees are hesitant to do so. Effort like these seek to prevent the isolation that can cause ex-military with post traumatic stress problems to suffer clinical depression and even to commit suicide. Those who stayed in this country to raise beef to feed the servicemen or work in factories making war supplies also have stories to tell about how the war impacted their lives and their futures.

These stories are important to all of us. Not only should they be told, they should be preserved for future generations. Meeting the needs of veterans should be a national priority. It's good to see how this is handled in the Lone State State.

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