San Augustine honors Pearl Harbor survivor and other local vets

By Morgan Thomas - bio | email

SAN AUGUSTINE, TX (KTRE) – What makes a memorial day ceremony special isn't the patriotic music, or the women waving their mini-American flags, and it's not the red, white and blue decorations.  However, it is the community coming together to pay their respects to their veterans like they do every year in San Augustine.

"Those who have protected us over the years here in San Augustine from all the world wars all the way up, and it's a great deal to give them that respect and honor that they are most proudly due," said Mayor of San Augustine, Leroy Hughes.

Mayor Hughes says there's not anything more or less special about this year's ceremony because they all are, "Each year is special because we know that a lot of our veterans are getting older especially World War II veterans. There's only a few left."

He wants the community to thank them in person for their service while they still can. James H. Barclay is one of San Augustine's World War II vets.  And he's not just any World War II vet - he's a Pearl Harbor survivor.

"I was on the U.S.S. Utah and we were the first ship sunk," said James H. Barclay.

While trying to hide in a nearby ditch after reaching land, he was on the run again.

"The Japs saw everybody getting in the ditch so they started machine gunning the ditch," said Barclay.

Stories like Barclay's remind us why Americans take a day to appreciate the men and women who put themselves in the line of fire.

"It's an honor to have known those people," said Barclay about his fellow soldiers.

For the veterans, their family and friends, Memorial Day isn't about an extended three day weekend. It's about those whose names are on the memorial at the San Augustine County Courthouse: those who sacrificed their lives for our freedom.

During the ceremony, names of San Augustine's fallen heroes were honored with their name called, followed by a ringing bell.

Thoughts of the soldiers fighting the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were also close to home. Barclay, had a message for those soldiers, "Believe in God and don't be afraid. You got to get them before they get you."

It's advice as relevant during World War II as it is right now.

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