Veterans organization

Eastside veterans organization completes mission before closing

A veterans’ organization in eastern Harris County has written its final chapter and will end on Memorial Day at the end of the month, but not without first completing its nearly decade-old mission to remembering his brothers in arms.

Eastside Veterans was an early effort between several community groups.

“I believe it was in 2011 that the American Legion, other veterans and Son Harvest Church, led by Richard Amador, worked together to bring the traveling Vietnam War Memorial to Crosby,” said the organization’s longtime president, Bob Ward.

After the auspicious four-day occasion from Nov. 3-7, 2011, Ward said a group of people involved in putting up the memorial wall in the community decided to feed veterans on Veterans Day and thank them for their service to the country.

“That’s really where we started the Eastside Veterans’ Celebration Committee,” and they started expanding their offerings to veterans, including a parade on Veterans Day, or the Saturday closest to the national day celebrated.

“Originally, we started here in the bank parking lot, serving hot dogs and veterans on Veterans Day,” said Judy Culbreath, vice president of CommunityBank of Texas in Crosby. “We set up a tent in front and the bank financed it. The hot dogs really took off and there were a lot of people showing up.

The organization grew to the point that they started using the American Legion Hall.

Much of the patriotic sentiment spread after the death of the retired first sergeant. David H. McNerney, 4th Infantry Division Medal of Honor recipient, died October 10, 2010, at age 79. For nine months, McNerney battled lung cancer before succumbing to the disease.

McNerney was well known and loved in the community and the American Legion Hall now bears his name. At the time, he was the only living Medal of Honor recipient in eastern Harris County.

The Crosby resident served as a first sergeant of Company A, 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division when he was awarded the nation’s highest honor for gallantry in 1968 by President Lyndon Johnson for the heroism demonstrated in action at Polei Doc, Vietnam.

In the fondest memories of the decorated sergeant, the Crosby Junior ROTC program, started in 2004 by Senior Army Instructor Maj. (R) Quenton L. Farr and Army Instructor SFC (R) Timothy Meadows, named their newest building on the high school campus after the war hero. Their website, even to this day, also pays tribute to McNerney.

Amid nationalist sentiment, Ward said celebration had grown, and so had membership.

“We gained members from Highlands, North Shore, some from Baytown in addition to those from Crosby,” he said. A celebration was held at the high school stadium in front of a large crowd and ended with a fireworks display.

As the members got older, unfortunately, attendance began to dwindle.

“We also faced the reality of other organizations in the region wanting to hold their own veterans’ greetings, so we decided to focus on a lasting tribute with a memorial,” he said.

Raffles, spaghetti dinners and bus game tours helped the young group accumulate money to grow the bank account to pay for a memorial in the park next to Crosby’s library.

Ward himself, organized bus trips to the casino once a month for nine months of the year for almost 10 years to help raise money for the organization.

“It worked until the pandemic hit us and stopped us,” he said.

Each month, they would earn on average between 350 and 400 dollars.

“As long as we had 40 people on the bus, Coushatta Casino Resort in Kinder, Louisiana would pay for the buses,” and had an agreement with Western Bus Lines.

The veterans group would charge $10 per person and average about $50 per trip.

“I also played bingo during the trip and we gave out gift cards as prizes. We would also do a cash gift asking everyone to contribute and at the end of the trip we would also give that to someone on the bus,” he said.

Logistics also required him to book 30 days in advance.

“We took donations wherever we could get them,” he said.

Ward thanked Judy Culbreath, vice president of CommunityBank of Texas in Crosby for her expertise in designing, commissioning and securing the placement of the monument.

Culbreath has experience having worked in a funeral home and managing the cemetery.

“I’ve been with the band since the very beginning,” she said, “and now until the end.” Ward said she had some help from Don Guillory, but they were able to provide the group with a layout and design for the obelisk monument, a tip of the hat to the San Jacinto monument a few miles from their site. .

“The day we were there to put it up, I was so surprised at how many people drove by and asked what we were doing, and I told them, this is a memorial for everyone who served in the military. It’s a space where you can go out and just think. It bears the six emblems of all branches of service,” she said proudly. other parts of the monument allow visitors respite.

The group had raised enough money for the purchase with some leftover money to donate to Precinct 2 for site upkeep, flowers and any other improvements.

“Since it’s on county property, they’ll maintain it in perpetuity,” Ward said. He thanked former regional commissioner Adrian Garcia and the current PCT. 2 Commissioner Tom Ramsey for their support of the project. He also thanked Eddie Foster for his contribution in ensuring that a public address system was available during their fundraisers.

“He’s been with the organization since day one. And he was always the man there to help us with the PA system and was instrumental in organizing the parade,” Ward said.

The pandemic affected attendance and fundraising opportunities for the band, and they made one last push to hit the $22,000 mark and shut it down.

Ward has been in the community for decades. He spent 20 years running a computer repair business. During this period, he also served on the board of the Crosby-Huffman Chamber of Commerce for 18 years.

“We started here in 1991 and I sold the business in 2012,” he said.

While officially retired, he and his wife Sharon spent time working at Citizen’s Police Academy and its Crosby Brethren Church.

The group of veterans was close to Ward’s heart. He joined the army in 1962 and remained in the air force for 8 years.

“I spent four of those years teaching electronics and during the Vietnam era my wife and I were in Hawaii for five years,” he said.

He served as the NCO in charge of the joint operations switchboard in a truly private underground facility and worked with the data receiver and transmitters back and forth between the mainland and Vietnam, and Manila, Alaska, and wherever they needed the data.

The Huffman Junior ROTC presented the colors for the ceremony.

“It’s not about me. All the workers, everyone we had in our organization worked hard to make this happen,” he said.

The end of the organization was bittersweet.

“We knew our mission and we accomplished it,” said the veteran.

To learn more about David McNerney’s story, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iwEzOWo8w4E.

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