Rock Wall DAR chapter honors fallen soldiers in national cemeteries, art

(ROCKWALL/HEATH, TX — April 14, 2016) The Rock Wall Chapter Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) met on Saturday, April 9, at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Heath (1524 Smirl Dr) and hosted guest speaker Becky Marks with the Dallas Ft. Worth National Cemetery. Additionally, DAR Chapter Regent Mindy Lovell recognized members who received state and national certificates.

Regent Mindy Lovell with Becky Marks

A Dallas-Ft. Worth National Cemetery representative and volunteer, Marks presented information about the National Cemetery at 2000 Mountain Creek Pkwy in Dallas. Marks discussed facts and guidelines regarding services offered for soldiers of all branches of military service in the United States. The following information was provided:
• Visitation hours: 365 days a year, open from dawn to dusk
• Administrative office open Monday-Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
• Purpose of the cemetery is to preserve dignity, beauty, and serenity and honor interred veterans
• Approximately 13 to 25 graveside services are held per day
• All employees are veterans
• All veterans and spouses are eligible for interment
• Presently 152 acres of cemetery are developed with an additional 638 acres available for future
• Presently 50 thousand people are interred in cemetery

Marks stated visitors may visit the National Cemetery at any time; however, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and Wreaths Across America (December) are also important dates to remember. Wreaths Across America is a non-profit organization dedicated to honoring and thanking our veterans for their service and sacrifice. The organization’s mission it to “Remember, Honor, and Teach.” The annual wreath laying ceremony began in 1992 at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C. It is now performed around the country.

The DAR 117th Texas State Conference was held on March 10-13 in Houston. This year the Rock Wall DAR Chapter was recognized with 25 state and national certificates of appreciation and excellence. Five specific members received certificates:
Marilyn King “Outstanding Support” at the Christmas Shop at Sam Rayburn Veterans Center in Bonham, Texas.
Margaret Anderson Stitching for Children TXDAR Project.
Carolyn Duckworth Outstanding Use of Technology for DAR Yearbook
Nikki Van Wey Outstanding Use of Technology for DAR Rock Wall Chapter Facebook
Vicky Parker Rock Wall Chapter Conserve and Protect the World

 

Cameron Frazier, Rockwall High School national merit graduate, captures lasting memory in art

Cameron Frazier with former teacher Linda Smith

The Rock Wall Chapter also welcomed guest speaker Cameron Frazier, a past Rockwall High School student and artist. The following information has been provided by Cameron’s former Rockwall High School teacher and DAR member, Linda Smith:

“It all started from a “viral” e-mail. I really don’t know who sent it out initially or even who forwarded it to me, but I remember its message. The writer lamented how our public had become overwhelmingly obsessed with celebrity “train wrecks” –largely ignoring those who made meaningful contributions to our society. In particular, our fighting men and women who were dying with hardly a mention from the media, politicians or the nation in general.

The author of the e-mail urged all Americans to pay their final respects to our fallen heroes –as that was the least we could do. Honor them with a moment of silence, a prayer, help their families, attend their funerals–just honor them! That was in the spring of 2011.

I had determined that beginning with the first day of school in the Fall of 2011–as more American soldiers were dying while fighting in Operation Enduring Freedom, my students would take a moment to remember them, to give each of them a face, to learn about their pasts and their hopes for a future that would never be fulfilled. I was ready on that first day of school to implement my plan.

August 27, 2012 was the first day of the new school year. I shared my plans of honoring fallen soldiers with my classes of supportive students. I watched the OEF casualty website waiting for the names that I knew would soon appear. On the same day that my students began their senior year with hope and anticipation, SGT Christopher Birdwell and SPC Mabry Anders would be killed by an Afghan soldier whose views and mission were not aligned with those of the American soldiers who had volunteered to help stabilize and improve the conditions in Welayat Khan’s country. Chris and Mabry would become the first two names and faces on my bulletin board. The circumstances surrounding their deaths were not what I expected to have to share with my students, but in retrospect, it piqued their interest in a war that had largely become forgotten to the American people. Many more casualties would follow and my bulletin board would become too small for all the faces of our fallen. The names and faces spilled out across the wall in the 2012-2013 school year.

Cameron Frazier with two of his drawings. The soldier on the left side of the picture is SPC Mabry Anders and on the right is Staff Sgt. Chris Birdwell.

While gathering information to share with my students about SGT Chris Birdwell, I felt compelled to write the family, express my condolences and to share with them information about our efforts to remember Chris and Mabry. Pam Birdwell quickly responded and included in her letter a commemorative dog tag and a funeral program. I immediately felt a connection. We corresponded occasionally throughout the fall. During the Christmas holidays, while visiting a local gift shop, I saw an angel figurine clutching a folded American flag to her heart. I immediately thought of Pam, bought it and sent it to her. I did not know at the time that this was the 2nd Willow Tree “Hero Angel” given to Pam. Her first angel was given to her by Gen Woydziak, the mother of SPC Mabry Anders, who had died in the same military engagement that same day with Chris. Pam shared with me that Gen had chosen to honor her son by providing every mother and every widow of every soldier killed after Mabry with a “Hero Angel.” Her project was called “Mabry’s Angels”. Gen had dutifully purchased and mailed these angels, primarily using her own funds. That was bothersome to me. A mother who had given up her son, should not have to bear the financial costs of providing a comforting gesture to hurting families.

My friend and former Rockwall High School co-worker, Leslie Kieschnick, and I discussed the email regarding “Mabry’s Angels” but her words “I did not realize how many of us there were” finally elicited that delayed response. We knew it was the right thing to do. Without hesitation, Leslie and I agreed that students in our Economics classes could bear the costs of “Mabry’s Angels.” Students and staff willingly contributed to see that this necessary activity continued. From the beginning of the school year in August, until the last day of school in June for the past two years, funds have been provided to purchase these angels.

The 2014-2015 school year introduced my students to 14 heroes. Their faces remind us that “freedom is not free.” At the end of the school year, all items were removed from my bulletin board and carefully placed in a closet container. They will be soon be resting with their “band of brothers”–a unique collection of patriots whose homes span the continent, each diverse, yet each the same. They are now together.

Rock Wall Chapter meetings are held on the first Saturday of the month unless otherwise indicated. Time and location are designated. Guests are welcome. Please contact Regent Mindy Lovell at 214-502-7697 or by email: gm1949@aol.com.

Submitted by Joy Greenwalt, DAR.

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