By Elsa Maxey
We celebrate American veterans like former Sugar Land City Council member Don Smithers, who retired as a Texas Air National Guard State Command Chief, and Patrick A. Houck, also a Sugar Lander and a retired Master Sergeant of the United States Marine Corps. Both are honorably discharged x-men, that is ex-military men, who have shared experiences that convey a message of how they were honored to serve on behalf of the nation.
For the rest of us, our Nov. 11 recognition of the veterans of U.S. uniformed services is about a moment that takes note of the willingness of so many among us to protect the values of our country by committing their lives for our defense.
There were local programs throughout Fort Bend County last week for Veterans Day, including the one at the Sugar Creek Country Club. The Sugar Land Rotary Club’s 24th annual program highlighted Smithers, who served in the military for 27 years and started in active-duty service with the U.S. Air Force. Houck, the other special guest, underwent continuous service in the Marines for 21 years, including a deployment to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and deployment to the Kumar province in Afghanistan.
The patriotic observance was timely, especially at a point when red (Republican) and blue (Democrat) seem to be the loud colors of today’s political climate. White, the other essential color of the American palette, may be about tempering the two. It is the color that depicts faith, giving rise to the belief that our society will be healthy both literally and figuratively. This is important for our local communities so that they may continue to advance the ideals of democracy, rights, liberty, opportunity and equality.
The bicolor political divide has become more evident in Fort Bend during the past 10 years or maybe even less. Many resident long-timers have been part of the enclave that has been historically represented by a conservative, the red, ideology. And the local trends, most notably seen with the outcome of recent partisan races, show another set of ideas that have taken root. So we see Fort Bend’s red geography turning purple, the blend of red and blue. This new color representing both sides is not necessarily a bad thing, but we need a good mix – one side should not win with the other suffering.
Patriotic observances like Veterans Day help us keep that in mind. All of us deserve representation, which is what the military does for us.
“I was considered a Cold War veteran because I was too young for Korea,” said Smithers, who was on active duty during the Korean War, in the Air Guard during the Vietnam War and later retired at the start of the Gulf War.
He said it as he implied a collective American identity with this involvement.
Houck, who has been stationed in California, Hawaii, New Orleans and Japan, appreciates what he’s learned and said serving his country afforded him many opportunities.
These two veterans conveyed that the military to them was a cohesive whole, like our own identity as Americans with distinctive traditions, cultures and languages. It’s what we share as Fort Benders in a place that provides for a livelihood, family, numerous amenities, security, and protects the rights of citizens as part of a red, white and blue country.