Remembering and honoring the more than 600 confederate veterans of the War Between the States who rest beneath the rich soil of Erath County, including Major George B. Erath, with the 2001 memorial dedication speech made by then mayor John Moser.
Erath County Confederate Veterans Memorial Dedication
October 21st, 2001
As Mayor of Stephenville, it is a pleasure and honor to be here with you today. I want to extend a special word of welcome to our visitors from out of town. We are glad you’ve taken time to join us today in dedicating this memorial and honoring the Confederate War veterans who are buried in Erath County. I hope you enjoy your stay, however brief it may be, and that you will return often. Let me also express my thanks to Mrs. Joyce Whitis and members of the organizing committee for inviting me to speak to you today.
As I mentioned, we are here today to honor the Confederate War veterans who are buried in Erath County. The dedication of this monument fills the one remaining void in recognizing all of Erath County’s war veterans. The men we honor today fought in a war which pitted brother against brother and father against son. It was a long, bloody war which tore the country apart. But it ended more than a century ago. The politics and outcome of that war were decided more than 135 years ago. There is no one alive today with direct memory of that conflict, and hardly a handful still living who knew any of those who fought in it. What remains is the honor due to Erath County’s veterans of that war.
But what, exactly, are we honoring? To me, we are honoring the courage and sacrifice made by men for a cause in which they believed. Not all causes prevail, nor or wars to achieve them always successful. What is constant and worthy of honor is the courage and sacrifice of men who answered when called to arms. These men did not hide or run away to Mexico. They did not flee to Canada, as some did in a later war. There have always been a few, then and in later wars, who object. No doubt there will be some who do so in future wars. Those who stand their ground and conscientiously object are due respect. Cowards who run away deserve only contempt. The men we honor today did not run away. I share with you a pride and respect for our heritage. These men are part of that heritage. They were brave and dedicated men who underscored their beliefs with action, and danger to their own lives.
Throughout mankind’s existence, it has been a willingness to risk the end of one’s life which changed the course of history. What causes someone to act in disregard for the paramount natural instinct of self preservation? Scientists and philosophers continue to seek an answer, without success. Even those who have intentionally gone in harm’s way cannot explain why. What we do know, and honor, is that these Civil War veterans were a part of our shared heritage who did so and answered the call to arms, even though it divided the country. Though their cause was lost, their honor was not.
But the Civil War was not the only conflict to divide this country. It was not the only one in which Erath County veterans volunteered, participated and died for an unsuccessful cause. At least the veterans of the Civil War enjoyed respect and a warm homecoming often not afforded veterans of a certain later war. Yet there is a monument to veterans of that later war now present on this court house square.
I am referring, of course, to the Vietnam War. Like many others from Erath County, I was a participant in that war. Like many other veterans, there are scars from that war which I will carry with me to the grave. They are not all physical scars. Some are the result of the misguided and undeserved disrespect we endured at the hands of many, but not all, fellow citizens upon return from that war. Those scars have faded, but they will never disappear. Yet there is at least a monument on this courthouse square to the sacrifices we made, though it too was for a lost cause and lost war. The monument to Vietnam veterans is not to the politics of that war. It is to the memory of those who fought in it. Yet unlike the Civil War veterans now known only to God and history, there are many Vietnam veterans among us today. We did not have to wait 135 years to see a monument erected to recognize the courage and sacrifices which took the lives of so many among us. It is indeed fitting that today we pause to honor all of Erath County’s war veterans, including those of the Civil War, regardless of personal judgments about the causes for which any may have fought.
To me, this monument to Confederate veterans is not about politics. It is about courage, and sacrifice, and answering the call to arms. Shall we pick and choose which veterans to honor based on whether or not we agree with their cause and their war? If so, how shall we choose which veterans to honor and which to ignore among future wars? And there will be future wars. One is now in progress. On what basis shall we judge those who go in harms way today on our behalf, even as we speak? Let us honor the memory of Confederate veterans as we do those of previous wars, and wars yet to come. They too deserve to be honored and I am proud to be here for the dedication of this monument in their memory. It is long overdue.
Mayor John Moser