Veterans show appreciation for Charlie Wilson

By Holley Nees - email

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - For four years, Charlie Wilson served in the Navy. So when it came to veterans there was no holding back.

"Ninety percent of my time was spent working with veterans," said Norma Butler, a former assistant of Wilson's.

Butler used to work for Wilson as a veteran caseworker. She says he had an open-door policy when he was in office. Now, Butler says the phone is ringing again.

"I've had veterans calling from Huntsville, from Newton, Orange," Butler said. "I mean, I've had calls from all over and it started like two o'clock yesterday."

Wilson fought for veterans. It's evident in the 37,000-square foot Lufkin VA clinic that bears his name.

"He wouldn't let nobody run over us," said veteran Harry Smith.

Smith met Wilson and says he was a man that got the job done. But veterans didn't have to meet the former congressman to know they were important to him.

"Even the new veterans that are just getting out are going to be benefiting from what he has done in the past and so I'm thankful for him," Melvin Mote said.

"I think he's the last of a dying breed," Forrest Varner said.

When the Lufkin VA clinic opened, Butler saw once again how Wilson was a man veterans wanted to be around.

"Charlie was kind of the same all the time," Butler said. "He was always going to be noticed in a crowd and I can just remember in the rain how the veterans were just waiting to get to him to shake his hand."

The flag flew at half-staff Thursday and a memorial wreath sits in front of a movie poster Wilson signed for the clinic's veterans. Veterans say they know Wilson's family has suffered a giant loss and they are grieving with them.

"He'll be missed and I think they've lost a really good man, we all have," Bobby Childers said.

"We'll never have another man that could take care of us like him," Harry Smith said.

Now the veterans that ranked high with the U.S. Naval Academy graduate will take care of his memory and always remember how he fought for them.

A memorial service for Wilson will be held Sunday at 2 p.m. at Temple Theater at Angelina College.

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