Medal of Honor week is officially underway in Gainesville.
The 2021 edition got underway Wednesday. A scaled-down escort of law enforcement vehicles ferried a few recipients to town from the Dallas/Ft. Worth airport, due to recent staffing headaches for participating agencies coping with the latest COVID-19 wave.
A crowd of 200 or so gathered to welcome the honored guests at North Central Texas College. Some came on motorcyles, as planners canceled that part of the procession from Dallas due to the aforementioned law enforcement staffing.
James Taylor, an annual fixture at these events, said there was only one thing keeping him at his home near the California-Oregon border.
“If it wasn’t for my daughter, you would have a new person living in this wonderful little city,” said Taylor, who was honored in 1968 for his bravery during a battle near Que Son in South Vietnam. “Gainesville, Texas is number one, the people are number one and God shines on you every day.”
Taylor is not the only one who looks forward to making the annual trek to Gainesville.
Donald “Doc” Ballard drove straight through from Kansas City Wednesday to get here – 10 hours on the road despite a recent fall that has him temporarily using a walker.
“I've threatened to move down here several times. Every year I come down, I plan on not going home, but I have a lot of businesses going on. I have five businesses in Kansas City and I can't very well shut them down. And I own a lot of rental properties pretty well,” said Ballard, who was honored in 1970 by President Richard Nixon and General William Westmoreland.
Since 2001, the Medal of Honor Host City Program has hosted 56 Medal of Honor recipients. Several RSVP’d for this year’s event – despite the continuing coronavirus pandemic – but Gainesville Mayor and lead organizer Tommy Morris said he expects “seven or eight” to show up through Friday. He also announced that the event would return to its regular spring slot in 2022.
This weekend’s remaining schedule:
Friday, Sept. 24 – Tree planting, the Medal of Honor Banquet (sold out);
Saturday, Sept. 25 – Medal of Honor Parade in downtown Gainesville (10-11 a.m.), MOH Fest with live music at the Farmers Market (11 a.m.-3 p.m.) following the Parade and a book signing at Civic Center (1-3 p.m.).
First Christian Church, 402 N. Dixon St. in Gainesville, will host the Second Chance Car Show Sept. 25 from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. The event, staged around the city’s Medal of Honor parade, will benefit Abigail’s Arms.
Check www.gainesvilleregister.com throughout the weekend for updated pictures, video and news from Medal of Honor week.