F’ville veterans to ‘Let Freedom Ring’
A group of Farmersville veterans will ‘Let Freedom Ring’ this Independence Day, and they will give you a chance to ring-in our Nation’s 237th birthday.
Members of the Farmersville Veterans Association (FVA) and Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 441 in Farmersville will hold a bell ringing ceremony at the little white chapel, the future home of the Farmersville Museum, at the corner of Front Street and Farmersville Boulevard in Farmersville.
FVA Chair Al Vandeslice said he wants the public to come and take a turn ringing the bell atop the chapel in honor of the sacrifice our past and present military have made. Vanderslice, who served as missile direct technician in the U.S. Army from 1964-1966, said each year he donates $500 of his travel money as a Farmersville Unified School Board Member to buy pocket Constitution books for every fifth and eighth grade student in the district.
“I think every child should read and understand the Constitution,” he said. “It outlines clearly what our rights are and the values our Country was founded on.”
Vanderslice said the veterans will begin by ringing the bell at 2 p.m. on Thursday, July 4. He said any member of the public – veterans, active military, civilians, children, etc. – can also take a turn ringing the bell.
“If you teach kids about freedom and the importance of being good citizens at a young age they are less likely to vandalize something and more likely to take pride in what they have,” Vanderslice said. “That’s something that we have started to lose in this country.”
Vanderslice points to a recent example of vandalism in Farmersville that hit home for local veterans. On Dec. 4, 2012 it was discovered that the brass plaque commemorating the military members of Farmersville residents who lost their lives in war was stolen from the Farmersville Veterans Memorial at Lone Oak Park. Thieves pried the plaque off its stone mount centered among bricks with the names of local veterans and military families.
“I’m an old man but I sat down and cried when I saw it,” Vanderslice said. “Two of the names on that list were guys I used to run around with before we entered the service.”
Farmersville veterans raised the money and built the memorial in 2004. At that time the brass plaque cost $1,300 and will cost even more to replace. Vanderslice said a donation bucket will be at the bell ringing ceremony on July 4 at the church. He said they have already raised about half of the $1,400 needed to replace the plaque. Vanderslice said that the Veterans Association would also be putting out cans at local businesses for those that wanted to donate.
“We want to get it replaced and perhaps install some cameras or something so this doesn’t happen again,” said Vanderslice. “This memorial needs to be there to remind people that freedom isn’t free and these guys gave the ultimate sacrifice.”
Another member of the FVA, Don Mason, said he hopes people attend the ceremony on the Fourth of July to spend part of their day remembering the men and women who protect our freedoms around the world every day.
“We did this two years ago for about 12 hours,” said Mason, who served as an aircraft mechanic crew chief in the U.S. Air Force from 1960-1964. “I hope a lot of veterans will come and take part in this.”
Rod Hughes, president of the Farmersville chapter of Vietnam Veterans of America, said there are few left from the World War II generation because of their age and few from the Vietnam War era due to poor health, mental health problems and suicide.
“I hope when all these guys are gone people will continue to remember and support our military,” said Hughes who served as a transportation sergeant in the U.S. Army from 1966-1969. “I know what it’s like to come home after a war and be spit on and called baby killers. I’m glad this generation doesn’t have to deal with that. I hope no one ever does again.”
For those in the community that want to help replace the plaque but are unable to attend on July 4, contact Vanderslice at Speed Frame Engineering, 174 Front Street in Farmersville, by calling (559) 747-0655 or Mason at Mason Tire, 1376 N. Farmersville Blvd., by calling (559) 747-0223.