When it comes to honoring America’s veterans in their own community, Pastor Fred Wiles and members of Kilgore United Methodist Church pull out the big brass.
Wiles, who was a member of the last incarnation of the Glenn Miller Unit of the United States Air Force Band, will use his trombone to honor veterans of each branch of the nation’s military as part of the Veteran’s Day observance Sunday at Kilgore United Methodist Church.
“I’m in the Lord’s army now and ... Wow! What a pleasure it is to serve Him,” said Wiles, explaining he was actually a member of two Air Force bands, including the Third Air Force in England, “which happened to be the Glenn Miller unit. I didn’t find out until I was there.”
Wiles said he was struggling with his decision to remain in the military when the unit was deactivated, helping him make the decision to again become a civilian.
As a pastor, Wiles continues to openly display his respect for the veterans whose families live in and around the rural community of Rush. For Sunday’s veterans’ salute, he will again take up his trombone and perform the theme from each of the five military branches, starting with the Coast Guard’s anthem. Veterans of each branch will be asked to stand and be recognized while Wiles plays.
“I call out the name of each branch before I play each theme, just in case some of them have forgotten their theme or don’t recognize it,” Wiles said with a soft smile.
The pastor at Kilgore United Methodist certainly isn’t the only one who makes a point of doing everything possible to salute those who served. For years, church members Trinnie Brainard and Joyce Thomas have asked local veterans to entrust them with their old photos, medals and documents as part of an annual salute to those who served their country. Thomas said it was an honor to be trusted with those items, although she often worried about what would happen if they lost something like a Purple Heart medal.
“Everybody that we asked gave pictures. We had three tables loaded with pictures and news items. We had people in the Bataan March, with purple hearts and even a World War I veteran from Rush,” she said.
This year, however, instead of being displayed on tables, the photos and information will be displayed on a large banner hanging just outside the main doors at the church.
“That was my idea,” she said with a bit of a chuckle before explaining, “It involved some work and I’m kind of lazy so I said, ‘Why don’t we see if we can have this put on a banner?’ It saves setting everything up on tables and borrowing everything every year.”
The banner will have to be expanded before it is anywhere near complete, Thomas said.
“We have thought of more veterans that we have not approached. We will probably put more pictures on there,” Thomas said.
The Veteran’s Day observation at Kilgore United Methodist Church will begin at 10:15 a.m. Sunday.
TIM PRESTON can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.