At the beginning of this month, my sisters and I had one of the greatest privileges we have ever had. The occasion was a special commemorative WWII veterans’ dinner hosted by Operation Meatball and held at Dick’s Classic Garage in San Marcos, Texas. The setting was perfect.
To begin with, Mr. Dick Burdick, the Texas businessman who started the non profit museum and collected the vintage cars, is a WWII veteran himself. We were thrilled to have him and his wife join us! And the dinner tables were actually set right in the middle of some of the most beautiful vintage vehicles dating from 1929 through the 1950s, including a 1948 Tucker, a 1929 Duesenberg, and a 1931 Packard roadster. The veterans told us that being around all those cars, some from their childhood and young adult life, was a wonderful highlight of the evening.
Our 15 World War II guests came with family and some with friends. Several veterans wore uniforms, many brought pictures of themselves as young soldiers at war. What a handsome bunch.
We had representatives from the Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force (Air Corps), Privates to Colonels, who fought in every corner of the war. Several had served in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. One survived the Bataan Death March. One was a concentration camp liberator. One returned thirty years later to the island he had served on as a missionary. Each one had a priceless story.
Over the course of the evening, Faith sang so many wonderful 1940s classics like “Meet Me in St. Louis,” “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes,” “Begin the Beguine,” “Lili Marlene,” and “I’ll Be Seeing You,” among many others. A number of the men piped in and sang along to the delight of everyone!
Honor joined Faith singing “Don’t Fence Me In,” and Virginia sang the duets, “Under the Bamboo Tree” and “Que Sera Sera.” Faith closed off the evening with the medley, “Bless ‘Em All,” “The Siegfried Line,” and “Kiss me goodnight, Sergeant Major” and finally, the favorite, “We’ll Meet Again.”
For dinner we served ham with pineapple and cloves, twice baked potatoes, broccoli, and Caesar salad. Honor, Providence, and Virginia served angel food cake with berries and whipped cream for dessert. During dessert, we took a microphone around to every table for each veteran to introduce himself and give a short history of his time during the war. It simply is inadequate to say that this was moving. This part was a priceless gift that these dear men gave to those of us listening.
Our guest speaker for the evening was the distinguished Monsieur Maurice Renaud, all the way from France, who was a little boy during the events of D-Day. He captivated our attention with the moving story of his father who served as Mayor of Sainte Mere Eglise as the 82nd Airborne descended into his town, and of his mother, now called the Mother of Normandy, who spent the rest of her life tending to the graves and contacting family members of the deceased.
In a very meaningful surprise toward the end of the evening, Mr. Renaud and his friend, Mrs. Cathy Soref, of Operation Democracy, gave us three beautiful commemorative coins, one from the Amis des Vétérans Américains, one from the village of Sainte Mere Eglise, and one from D-Day 2014. We were overwhelmed.
It was a treasured evening which we are still reflecting on and absorbing. We are keeping in touch with our new veteran friends and look forward to sharing more stories with you. We are so grateful for the support of many of you and appreciate your investment in our effort to tangibly demonstrate honor and gratitude. We hope to do this again.
For more photos from the evening: WWII Veterans Dinner Gallery
Photo credit: Trent Sherrill Photography and our dad.