H.E.A.R.T.S. Afghanistan memorial: Honoring the fallen

Photo courtesy of Leila De La Cruz

The H.E.A.R.T.S Veterans Museum of Texas hosted a breakfast on Sept. 3 honoring 13 U.S. service members who lost their lives to a suicide bombing attack at Kabul Airport in Afghanistan, according to the Wall Street Journal.

In honor of those who had fallen, eight tables circled a ninth one dressed in red, white and blue with a plate, a cup and a single yellow rose laid at each chair. At the head of these tables read a sign that read, “Reserved for Our Fallen Heroes.”

Thirteen seats remained empty as dozens of veterans poured freshly made coffee and stacked donuts onto their plates, for one last meal with their fallen brothers and sisters.

U.S Army veteran Tom Selby attended the event to commemorate and give aid to those in need.

“If you don’t memorialize the people who have gone before you, then you lessen the value of their service and you also forget the reason they served,” Selby said.

Selby served in the army from 1966-1969. He is now with Disabled American Veterans, where he helps veterans with service-related injuries get the compensation they deserve for the sacrifices the troops have made in war.

One of many who know of sacrifice is H.E.A.R.T.S Veterans Museum president and retired Marine Kenneth Lee.

“I guess I have to think about it like when we were in Vietnam,” Lee said. “You know the majority of them were Marines and Marines guard every embassy in the world. And they know going in what to expect.”

Lee’s eyes grew distant as he revealed the hardship he faced on the ground in Vietnam, where he lost one of his best friends.

Though the tragedy is still fresh on the minds of Americans, the H.E.A.R.T.S Veterans Museum hopes to stay strong and grow.

“We show everybody what veterans can do, what they have done, and everything in here is real,” Lee said.

The museum not only offers one of the best collections of military artifacts but is also a resource center for all who have served.

“You have a need, you’re veteran, give us a call,” volunteer at H.E.A.R.T.S Veterans Museum and Air Force veteran Larry Bishop said. “We will hook you up with whoever you need.”

The museum has contacts with many organizations like the Lone Survivor Foundation and has a close partnership with Disabled American Veterans.

“There’s a camaraderie, a fellowship, a bond,” Air Force veteran and Sam Houston State University accounting professor Ross Quarles said.

During his Air Force service, Quarles was stationed underground to manage nuclear missiles. Working next to potential death, he came upon a viewpoint, common among the veterans interviewed, on why troops put themselves in dangerous situations.

“They all say that you don’t do it so much anymore for country and flag and apple pie, but for the people around you,” Quarles said.  “You take care of them. They take care of you.”

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