The clouds burned off and the sun shone brightly as a few dozen people gathered at the Texas Panhandle War Memorial on Sunday afternoon to pay homage to veterans of World War II and the Korean War.
“I think that these people need to be honored … not just on this day, but every day, just like all of the veterans,” said Fred Rangel, memorial president.
It’s been nearly 64 years since the Korean War ended on July 27, 1953, after a little more than three years of battle. Allied with South Korea, American troops entered the war about a month after North Korea started it.
World War II, which was fought in Europe, Southeast Asia, China, the Middle East, the Mediterranean and Northern Africa, ended nearly 72 years ago on Sept. 2, 1945, six years and a day after it began. It pitted the Allied powers of Britain, France, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, India, the Soviet Union, China and the United States against the Axis powers of Germany, Italy and Japan.
“A lot of people don’t understand, especially the younger generation, what (these wars) were all about,” Rangel said. “We’ve done an honoring for the Vietnam veterans, the Persian Gulf (veterans), for Iraq and Afghanistan (veterans) and on Memorial Day we honor everyone that sacrificed their lives for this country, but for World War II and Korea, we’ve never done anything like this. It’s way past due. They should be honored.”
Provisions were made to provide transportation to veterans living at the VA, Ussery-Roan TX State Veterans Home and assisted living facilities in Amarillo.
“We’d like to bring them out so they can be present and honored.” Rangel said. “If we can get as many as we can while they’re still here, even though they may be in wheelchairs or whatever, we’ll accommodate them.”
“This should have been done a long time ago. You feel like you’ve been slapped away from a table a couple of times when it comes to eat because you don’t feel like you got a fair welcome,” said Carroll D. Bozarth, who served in the Marine Corps 1st Tank Battalion and 3rd Tank Battalion.
Bozarth’s arm was crushed on Jan. 1, 1956, and he was discharged due to disability.
“It was hell,” he said of war. “You pick up everything you own and you put it on your back, you step outside the door and the temperature is 40 below zero. It’s so cold that if you laid your machine gun down you could not touch it with your bare hands because your hands would freeze to it.
“I love the Corps. It hurt when I got crushed and they told me I couldn’t go back in. I had it all planned out … but that’s the way it goes.”
World War II veteran Roy Ehly and Korean War veteran Clarence Bodling placed a wreath at the memorial’s Battlefield Cross.
“I enlisted because there were no more buddies of mine left at Hale Center — they all left for some kind of military service,” Bodling said. “I didn’t mind war at all. I had buddies all around me, and we were kept busy. I let God and the angels take care of me.
Bodling, who served from 1952 to 1955, was pleased with the memorial.
“This is more than I ever expected,” he said. “It’s all the honors I could expect.”
Former Amarillo College president Paul Matney was keynote speaker at the event.
“We realize the cost of freedom is not free,” Matney said. “This is an irreverent and very dignified memorial to every veteran that ever served, but also to those who gave, as Abraham Lincoln said, the last full measure of devotion and who did not come home from war.
He recalled his father’s service during World War II.
“Two things changed his life: football and the U.S. Army,” Matney said. “He and his men, as did all of these men who we honor, did extraordinary things. Today is all about Korean veterans and World War II veterans and making sure that they know that we haven’t forgotten about them and the service they gave when our country was in great peril.”