Local veterans, both living and deceased, were honored during an early Veterans Day ceremony held at America's Last Patrol Ranch near Benavides Saturday afternoon.
Eighteen names were placed brick by brick on the Memorial Wall, honoring those who served this nation and the many who made the ultimate sacrifice. Those who were honored include SFC Rufus A. Avery Jr., Vietnam Veteran, Corpus Christi, Texas; PO2 Robert Barrera Jr., U.S. Navy, Corpus Christi, Texas; SP4 Alvaro Benavides, Vietnam Veteran, Kingsville, Texas; TEC5 Lauro Castillo, WWII Veteran, Robstown, Texas; MMCM Don M. Dunn, U.S. Navy, Corpus Christi, Texas; Col. Joseph T. Fordham, WWII, Korea, Vietnam Veteran, San Antonio, Texas; 1stLt. Frederick F. Henry, U.S. Army, K.I.A., Medal of Honor Recipient; Pvt. Daniel F. Galvan, USMC, Omaha, Neb.; Airman Eraul V. Galvan, U.S. Air Force, Omaha, Neb.; Cpl. Reynaldo V. Galvan, U.S. Army, Kingsville, Texas; Pvt. Abraham DeLeon Garcia, U.S. Army, Realitos, Texas; Pvt. Amado Lazo, Vietnam Veteran, San Diego, Texas; Rolando Martinez (Honorary Member), Patriots Band Honor Guard Member, Corpus Christi, Texas; Cpl. Joe Pierce Jr., Vietnam Veteran, Corpus Christi, Texas; LCpl. James H. Prewett, USMC, Lebanon, Corpus Christi, Texas; Cpl. John Henry Pruitt, USMC, WWI, Medal of Honor Recipient, Phoenix, Ariz.; SP4 Luis Ruiz Jr., US Army, Corpus Christi, Texas; and PO1 Dennis Edwin Wilheim, US Navy, Kingsville, Texas.
The Patriots Band and Honor Guard of America from Corpus Christi played military music selections throughout the ceremony, as well as posted the Colors, performed the 21-gun salute and band member Eddie Franco played "Taps."
As part of the celebration, guest speaker United States Army Col. (Ret.) Dick Pruitt, spoke on the call of duty, what soldiers found there, and the peace all soldiers seek. Pruitt, who lives in Corpus Christi, started as a young Marine, only 15, in World War II. His career spanned the mid-century, where he honorably served this country through WWII, the Korean War and Vietnam War. Pruitt is a member of the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign War, Disabled American Veterans and other veterans' organizations.
He attended the ceremony with several members of the Flour Bluff Post, who assisted with Saturday's ceremony.
"As veterans, we know the call of duty. We know why we served. The call of service led us to foreign lands, and the realities of war. We found where the elephant danced, we found the truth in battle. We found the fear. We learned the stench. We saw the bodies of our friends, and we saw those of the enemy. We learned the whisper of death from mortars, we heard the thunderous roar of artillery from both sides, and we learned the sound of the bullet striking flesh or snapping close to your head. We heard the screams for a medic, and the numb feeling as our buddies were covered by a poncho, waiting to be sent out," Pruitt said.
As an old veteran, Pruitt said, the main thing he is looking for is peace.
"I want peace. I want my country to be at peace. I want these little children sitting down here to know peace. I don't want them to have to worry about getting drafted or volunteering. I want them to stay home with their momma and daddy and go to school," Pruitt said.
Many veterans were there in person to place their brick on the Memorial Wall. TEC5 Lauro Castillo of Robstown, Texas, went to receive his brick alongside his son, Lauro Castillo Jr.
A veteran of WWII, Castillo started his service as an infantryman, but soon was transferred to a radio operator, and by the time he crossed the Atlantic, he was placed in the tank division, manning the 105-millimeter gun.
"This was a touching ceremony, very moving," Lauro Castillo Jr. said. "I don't think he (his father) ever expected it."
Lauro Castillo, a lively 88-year-old man is hard of hearing now, but still full of his memories. He said the ceremony was exciting and brought forth several feelings and memories.
"Seeing people honor me, I thought I was forgotten. It was a great honor. I just don't know how else to express it, I'm really grateful to these people who still remember me," Castillo said.
Castillo was raised in Bishop, but moved to Robstown as a teenager and graduated from Robstown High School. He served in the war from 1944-45, seeing more than eight months in combat. Castillo received more than 15 decorations for his actions overseas, including five bronze stars. His service in the war took him throughout Europe, and included heavy fighting in the Ardeen forests of Belgium, which history would later call the Battle of the Bulge.
"I was right in the middle. The weather would get to 19 degrees below zero, and we were still fighting. I got like four or five decorations from countries in Europe," Castillo said. "It's been coming back lately, the older I get, like it happened yesterday. I was 22 or 23 when I was driving a tank, fighting through France, Belgium, Holland and Germany. And the 'Bulge.' I was young. I thought back then, everything was easy," Castillo continued. "At first I enjoyed the service, then when I got overseas, and they started shooting at us, that was different. But I was a pretty good shot with a gun. But in war, when you shoot at the target, it shoots back. I'm glad that I did serve though. At the time you're not too happy, because you're getting shot at. You're kind of half-scared, but we didn't run."