U.S. Rep. Bill Flores, R-Bryan, presented 12 local men and one woman with the Congressional Veteran Commendation on Thursday morning, honoring the group for its military service and for good deeds in the civilian realm.
The veterans were applauded by an audience of more than 200 supporters at the American Legion Post 159 in Bryan and were each presented with symbolic keepsakes including a folded American flag and a challenge coin.
Flores’ congressional website describes the Veteran Commendation as an honor given on Veterans Day each year in the TX-17 district to service members who have been nominated by members of the community. In the months following the Veterans Day announcement of their award, the group receives public recognition for the accomplishment, as was reflected in Thursday morning’s event.
The recipients of the 2018 award included 26 people — 13 of whom were present at the event — whose service ranged from World War II to the War on Terror. Some recipients stood out for valor in the face of combat, whereas others were recognized for charitable acts of service performed as civilians following discharge from the military.
Those honored at the event were: Terrence Nunn of Bryan; William “Bill” P. Workman of Bryan; Penrod “Rod” Sims Thornton of College Station; Jerry “Kean” Register of Bryan; David Christopher Ray of Franklin; Thomas Gayle Powell of Bryan; Henry W. Menefee of Bryan; Craig George of Bryan; Eric Eugene Dotson of College Station; Leslie “Les” Wayne Davenport of Rockdale; Dr. Aaron Keith Buzzard of Bryan; Olivia W. Burnside of College Station and Robert L. Beal of College Station.
George, who was a captain in the U.S. Army and served as the only leading mortuary officer evaluating casualties at the Pentagon during the 9/11 terror attacks, took the stage at the American Legion cafeteria amid cheers from children in the audience.
As Flores handed him a framed certificate, the students of George’s fourth grade class at St. Joseph Catholic School in Bryan were invited to join their teacher at the front, where they posed for pictures with George and Flores.
George said he was surprised he received an award at all and said he still doesn’t know who nominated him, or whose idea it was to tell his students.
“My school arranged for all these kids to show up,” he said. “I walked up to [the building] and there they were. They were supposed to be in class with a substitute. I love to have them here — they’re what it’s all about. I rarely talk to them about my time in the military, but I guess they know now.”
George wasn’t the only one taken aback by his nomination. Though Burnside, former U.S. Marine and Vietnam veteran, has spent countless years serving the American Legion, even holding the position of local post commander at one point, she didn’t see herself as one to stand out amongst her friends at the Legion.
“It’s really hard to express [how I feel],” she said. “It’s such an honor. There are so many who are so worthy, and so many who do so much, that you’re humbled you are being singled out.”
The award was enacted locally by Flores in 2012, and nominations for 2019 are open on the congressman’s website. For a full list of the 26 award recipients, visit http://bit.ly/veteranawards.