Three hundred forty five…the number of names engraved on the new Veterans Memorial in Craig Ranch. Three hundred forty five individuals from Collin County who gave their lives for freedom; three hundred forty five soldiers who laid down their lives for their fellow man – sacrificed their lives for the lives of strangers. The memorial is the culmination of a dream, as well as years of work and planning by local Vietnam veteran, R.D. Foster.
A McKinney native, Foster, lost his friend Bill Ryan, in the Vietnam war and was one of the speakers at the dedication ceremony of the Veterans Memorial Park on Saturday morning, Nov. 12 as hundreds of guests solemly gathered in the blustery wind to salute and remember those Collin County veterans who gave their lives in the service of their country.
With the United States flag towering high above the Memorial, the McKinney North High School Choir set the stage with their moving renditions of “America the Beautiful” and “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”.
Wind whistling through the microphone, Congressman Sam Johnson, 81, who spent twenty nine years in the U.S. Air Force, told of his horrific experience during the Vietnam War where he endured nearly seven years as a Prisoner of War in Hanoi, including 42 months in solitary confinement.
Congressman Johnson shared that one of his fellow prisoners took scraps of colored thread and, using a piece of bamboo, sewed an American flag on the inside of his POW shirt where it would be close to his heart.
“We saluted that flag every night,” Johnson said. “No one understands more than those who serve that freedom doesn’t come free.”
After his captors discovered the flag, beat the prisoner and retuned him to his prison, the soldier began the process of sewing a flag into his shirt all over again.
Foster relayed stories of other soldiers who had died in action, reminding those gathered that the memorial will be a constant reminder of those men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice. We must never forget he said.
The memorial is situated on one-half acre on Weiskopf Road in Craif Ranch. It includes a ribbon-like walkway, symbolic of the yellow ribbons which are often used to represent the the men and women who are serving until their return. A black granite wall, engraved with the names of Collin County’s fallen, stands in the loop of the ribbon. An American flag flies illuminated over the memorial twenty four hours a day. The fountain at the base of the flagpole waters the six red Shumard Oak trees that represent a branch of the United States Uniformed Services.