Veterans Services Officer Paul Bastaich shared his heroes Monday with the hundreds gathered on the lawn of the Denton County Courthouse on the Square.
His heroes don’t wear capes and tights or have names like Superman, he said.
“Heather, Stella, Wayne and Hank,” Bastaich said. “There’s a Forest, a Jim or two, a Spencer, a Greg and several Johns. My heroes list goes on and on. There are 42,000-plus heroes in Denton County alone. Many of you know them — they go by the term of veteran. I call them my heroes.”
Joining Bastaich were the Sam Houston Singers, Denton County commissioners, Denton Mayor Mark Burroughs, officials from both Texas Woman’s University and the University of North Texas, state Rep. Myra Crownover, U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess and others.
Burgess delivered remarks during the ceremony along with Richard Nicholas, TWU vice president of student life and Jean Keller, UNT vice president of Engagement.
The keynote speaker for the ceremony was assistant district attorney and U.S. Army veteran Forest Beadle, who touched on the county’s veterans treatment corps program.
“Over the years we have recognized that in our criminal justice system here in the county we have fallen somewhat short in the treatment of our veterans as they come into the court system with criminal charges pending against them,” Beadle said.
The corps program is an intensive supervision program that helps veterans whose post-traumatic stress disorder or other mental health issues are contributing to their criminal behavior. The program links the veteran to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and to treatment. Six veterans are now receiving voluntary treatment and officials are working to identify additional veterans who may qualify for the program.
“When you see one of these guys react to this positively and start changing their own life, you see that military discipline come back in and you see a soldier, a marine, or an airman or a seaman reborn,” Beadle said after the ceremony.
Frances Bishop, who was on hand for the ceremony with her daughter, said she had deep family ties to military service.
“My father was a Vietnam veteran, I had uncles in Korea, World War II. It’s one of the few days sometimes the vets will speak about what they went through, especially the Vietnam veterans who were treated so badly when they came home,” Bishop said. “I’m really grateful Denton goes all out every year and does something to say thank you.”
Bishop said the ceremony was a great tool to help teach the younger generation about the meaning of the day.
“They have to learn it sometime and someplace. It’s fine to try and teach it at home, but there is something about ceremony that really instills it,” she said.
BJ LEWIS can be reached at 940-566-6875.