It was a joy to start the spring State Conference visits with my own Texas State Conference, Pamela Wright, State Regent, in Dallas in early March. Prior to the opening ceremonies, workshops on a variety of topics were held, including conflict resolution by NSDAR’s own Development Director Sandra Pollack, Veteran’s Oral History Project Training, Using Census Records by Ancestry and Social Media. Registrar General Sharon Withers presented a workshop on using DNA as a form of documentation. The State Chairman’s Club luncheon featured a service project in which every attendee was invited to bring an extra pair of shoes for a local women’s shelter. With over 80 Pages (a state record) as well as a record conference attendance, members enthusiastically embraced the revised format with more audio/visual and fewer reports. We will be using some of those great ideas at Continental Congress this year.
Although my travel schedule only allowed me to participate in Opening Night, it was quite a thrill. After the entrance of the State Officers, Honorary State Regents and Conference Guests, the Chapter Regents processed in with chapter banners. With 199 chapters, it was quite an event! State Regent Pamela Wright showed a short video of my installation as President General, and then welcomed me as I entered under saber arch. What a welcome back to the Lone Star State!
With a registration of over 1400, the conference was off to an enthusiastic start. Among the highlights of Opening Night was the presentation of C.A.R. members which included my new granddaughter, Campbell, and Pamela Wright’s two grandchildren, Elise and Jackson. Pamela surprised me with the Women in American History Award for being the first President General from Texas in the Society’s 123 year history and was thoughtful enough to surprise my husband with a certificate of appreciation for the videos which he has made for the Texas Society. The State Outstanding Junior, Zia Lowe, was announced and all cheered when her own grandmother, Kay Wesson, was named Honorary Junior Member.
The Betty Martin Chapter of Temple surprised me with an outstanding replica of the Betsy Ross flag. The chapter project began with a small replica of the flag which Betsy Ross’ granddaughter, Rachel Albright, made in 1904. In an effort to make it a totally Texan flag, they consulted a number of textile experts and historians and gathered tiny squares of red and white fabric from their 94 members representing 82 patriots. Each regent stitched one of the stars, including 100 year old Doris Rechenthin. Others who stitched stars included a descendant of Betty Martin, the District Director and Pamela Wright. Enlisting the help of chapter member Susan Evans, the flag was magnificently framed by a Master framer in San Antonio. Each of their 82 patriots is listed and I am reminded of how very proud they would be of the manner in which the ladies of Betty Martin Chapter are Honoring their Heritage. The piece is absolutely gorgeous and I am deeply honored by their generous gift.
I heard from several that the highlight of the conference was the Patriotic Prayer Breakfast on Sunday morning when the DAR Service for Veterans Committee and the Commemorative Events-50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War Committee joined forces to honor veterans and commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War. The morning began with reveille and the Presentation of the Colors by the Texas Society Sons of the American Revolution Color Guard in colonial uniforms. Awards were presented to a World War II veteran in recognition of his outstanding achievements, to a DAR member in recognition of outstanding volunteer care given to veterans, and VAVS representatives were recognized for their service. Under the guidance of the TXDAR State Chaplain, an absolutely lovely book of Prayers of American Patriots was created especially for the event and given to each attendee as a gift from the Texas Society.
One Vietnam Veteran in attendance, retired Marine Lt. Col. Gary Morris, began painting shortly after returning from Vietnam. He presented an eagle painting entitled “Courage” to me which was accepted by Registrar General Sharon Withers. The amazing thing about his breathtakingly accurate eagle painting is that there are a total of 56,248 artist brush strokes in the painting representing – at the time it was painted – the exact number of heroic Americans who did not return home from Vietnam. I am humbled to accept this painting from a true hero.
The United States of America Vietnam War 50th Anniversary Commemoration was established by Congress, to “thank and honor veterans of the Vietnam War, including personnel who were held as prisoners of war (POW) or listed as missing in action (MIA), for their service and sacrifice on behalf of the United States and to thank and honor the families of these veterans.” TXDAR devoted the remaining portion of the Patriotic Prayer Breakfast to honoring Vietnam Era Veterans who had never received the homecoming they deserved and which was long overdue. Members were encouraged to bring to the breakfast as their guests Vietnam era veterans and over forty veterans were in attendance, many proudly wearing their uniforms. A moment of silence was held for those that did not return and then the Veterans were asked to rise and stand by the flag of their military branch of service, where it was then the privilege of the Texas State Regent to present each with a specially-designed commemorative lapel pin and a Certificate of Valor in recognition of their patriotism, service and sacrifice for their country during the Vietnam era.
Then all 333 people at the breakfast rose up and created a corridor down the center aisle and around the room. Pages in white recessed the Colors and the flags of the military branches as the brave Vietnam era veterans who risked their lives for America followed their branch’s flag down the corridor, to be finally welcomed home as they should have been so many years ago with applause, tears, cheers, and expressions of deep gratitude from the DAR members and their families. It was a moment no one would forget and every chapter is urged to become an commemorative partner. (http://www.vietnamwar50th.com/)
Following the breakfast, Lt. Col. Morris wrote a letter to the Texas Society, an excerpt is below:
Ladies of DAR, Sunday March 9, in Dallas, Texas, on the 50th anniversary of Viet Nam, many of us were finally welcomed home. We walked through a corridor of people actually cheering and clapping as we went by. I must admit that I had goose bumps and actually became teary-eyed as I walked along -- and, ladies, Marines don’t cry! What a wonderful time that was.
I don’t know if you can fully grasp what it meant to me, but what you did took away decades of hurt. I am not thinking about fifty years ago. My thoughts go to last Sunday when you welcomed us home. Your mission was fulfilled. If I could have one request, it would be that other state chapters repeat this event for more veterans. I know that my guys would appreciate it.
It was wonderful to be with family and friends but the brief visit came to an end as I departed early the next morning for the DC State Conference.