Memorial Day 2020: Honoring TCDLA and HCCLA Veterans

If you think that you are having a bad day because your TV or phone or computer is not working, then get in your car and go to the nearest VA hospital and see real problems. People bitch and complain and gossip about bullshit all the time. In the hospital you will see men and women of the “Greatest Generation” suffering and coping with things most people can not comprehend. When my family members joined the Army in WWII, they signed up for the duration of the war, not for two or three years. They went over the pond as my uncle used to say and did not come back for over four years. When lawyer Richard “Racehorse” Haynes was dodging bullets on Iwo Jima, he was just trying to stay alive. My Abilene friend William Ervin Sims, who recently died at age 92, carried a BAR, a Browning automatic rifle, weighing 16 pounds up the hills of Iwo Jima. Those two men and many others fought 35 days without rest and managed to survive.

Memorial Day has traditionally been a day of observance for the men and women who died in the sacrifice of the cause they were fighting for. This day is different from Veterans Day in that Veteran’s Day is set aside to honor all veterans. Since many in the WWII and Korean War generation are growing older, I felt it incumbent on me to honor all veterans by putting forth a short statement honoring those both living and dead who have served this great country.

One good friend and veteran Victor Blaine went away several years ago and I know he would approve of me writing this article now. John Saur is another Houston lawyer who froze for months when in Korea serving his country. When I asked him about the article, he was happy and said anyone who was worried about the date could come see him and he would have a surprise for them that he brought back in his duffel bag from Korea. John Saur was in the middle of the fighting and came back, finished college and law school, and has been a lawyer almost 50 years.

Memorial Day is a federal holiday originally enacted to honor fallen Union soldiers after the Civil War. It was originally known as Decoration Day. Decorating the graves of their fallen soldiers was commonplace by Confederates even before the Civil War had ended, by southern ladies of Richmond and southern schoolchildren. The catastrophic number of dead soldiers from North and South alike meant that burial and memorialization was very important after the war. Townspeople, mostly the women, buried the dead and decorated graves during the war. The oldest national cemetery was created in 1862. After Abraham Lincoln’s death, many events to commemorate the war began. The first such event was in Charleston, South Carolina, on May 1, 1865. Union soldiers who died there were buried in unmarked graves. Freed slaves knew of this and decided to honor these soldiers. They cleaned up and landscaped the burial ground. On that day, nearly 10,000 people gathered to honor the dead and 3,000 schoolchildren and others brought flowers to lay on the burial field. Historians said this was the first Memorial Day. African-Americans invented Memorial Day in Charleston. Black Americans freed from slavery brought flowers and sang songs about the war. Speeches on Memorial Day were a time for veterans, politicians, and ministers to commemorate the war. People of all religious beliefs joined together and the point was made that immigrant soldiers had become true Americans because they had shed so much blood in battle. By 1870, much of the anger was gone and speeches praised the brave soldiers of blue and gray.

By 1950, the theme of Memorial Day was to uphold freedom in the world. Today, Memorial Day extends to honor all Americans who have died in all wars.

Tennessee was a divided state during the Civil War. Some of the families that served in the Union Army had family members joining the Confederates. My maternal great-grandfather Abraham George Washington Cox and great-great-grandfather Abraham Cox enlisted with the Confederate Army on the same day. Abraham George Washington Cox was 15 and his father Abraham was 51. They served in the Tennessee Calvary. After the war, Abraham George Washington Cox rode a mule from Tennessee to Cooke County, Texas, got married, and had 12 children and named them after Confederate heroes. My grandfather was named Robert E. Lee Cox. Abraham George Washington established the Mt. Zion School Church, and Cemetery. Each year in May, our family meets there to attend “Graveyard Working” like the old customs that started Memorial Day. My paternal great-great-grandfather Joseph Washington Mathis fought with the 1st Alabama Infantry. He was captured at Island Tennessee on 4/8/1862, escaped capture at Port Hudson, Louisiana on 7/9/1863, and was captured again in Nashville, Tennessee, on 12/16/1864. He was held prisoner until the end of war. His children came to Jones County, Texas, in 1899.

My son, who coincidentally was born on July 4, called me from the recruiting station when he turned 17. He said the recruiter would not let him join without my permission and would not let him be a military police officer. I got the recruiter on the phone and he laughed and said you will have to get permission from the Pentagon. I was in Ted Poe’s court that morning and told him. He, himself a veteran, made some phone calls and at four p.m. that day a major at the recruiting station said, “Please don’t make any more phone calls. Meet me here at five p.m. and your son will be sworn in.” My son went to the U.S. Army and was trained at Fort Anniston, Alabama, as a military police officer. He served there and got out but was recalled after 9/11. He served again and left the Army as an E-5 with an honorable discharge.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

– John McCrae

We cherish too, the poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led,
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies…

– Moina Michael

We all complain about high taxes, traffic, bad government, bad judges, bad prosecutors, bad presidents, and bad everything. The list of things we complain about is long. In America we have the right to complain. Try that in some foreign country and your life will be ended. We live in a free country where opportunity exists for all people. People from all over the world want to come to the United States of America. Members of TCDLA and HCCLA and their family members who have served, or are serving, will be listed at the end of this article. They all need to be recognized for their sacrifices, be it large or small. Some of us were in the military reserve and some were in the middle of battle and saw their comrades dying around them.

Some were brave men who did extraordinary things in battle to fight for our country. One member at a recent seminar in Plano said, “I was only in the Naval Reserve.” I reminded him of the phrase by John Milton, “Those also serve who stand and wait.” Even those who were, or are standing in wait, are serving. As we have seen from recent history, many of those who were standing and waiting were called to active duty and sent to foreign lands to serve and fight if needed. Many of those who were standing and waiting went overseas and never came back.

The problems facing veterans have gained some attention and in many counties there is now a Veteran’s Court They recognize that veterans have special needs. Too many times, when representing a veteran, I try to point out to the prosecutor that this person served our country and may have suffered some disability or some change that affected the veteran’s behavior. Too often I have heard the prosecutor say, “Well, everybody has some kind of excuse.” No, I point out everybody did not go through what the veteran did. This attitude prevails in every court room across the state. Most of these people never served in anything, not even Cub Scouts. Few judges in the Harris County courts were in the military. The exceptions are Judge Mike McSpadden, Judge Jim Wallace, Judge Marc Carter, and Judge Ruben Guerrero.

As lawyers representing veterans, we need to get the military records and prepare a mitigation motion or motion to dismiss the case. We need to be vigilant in our fight for the veteran client. If there is a Veteran’s Court, try to get the case transferred there. If there is no Veteran’s Court, then try to get other veterans to help you do your best for the client. Get all the people from the VFW or American Legion to come to court and see what happens. Even bring the members of the veteran’s motorcycle clubs, the Patriot Guard, and Rolling Thunder. Go to military.com to get a list of veteran groups. If the veteran has alcohol or dug problem, bring the AA or NA group too. It has proven to be very effective.

Famous wartime quotes:

“A good battle plan that you can act on today can be better than a perfect one tomorrow.”
-General George Patton

“Freedom is the right to be wrong, not the right to do wrong.”
-John Riefenbaker

“Never trust a private with a loaded weapon, or an officer with a map and compass.”
-A Murphy’s Law of Combat

“You don’t win a war by dying for your country. You win a war by making the other son-of-a-bitch die for his.”
-General George Patton

Richard Grenier said, as George Orwell pointed out, “People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”

The following members of TCDLA or HCCLA (or their family members or investigators) served in the military and we honor them all:

*Reiffert Riley Evans
*Alan Schein
Richard “Racehorse” Haynes
Robert Scardino, Sr.
John Saur
Andrew Lannie
Victor Blaine
G. Wesley Urquhart
John Urquhart
Lucio Martinez
Bobby Mims
Bernie Trichter
Herman “Hymie” Trichter
Lucille Trichter
Albert Fickman
Philip Fickman
Albert Schein
Max NewDelman
Jack Zimmermann
Terri Zimmermann
Kyle Sampson
Abraham Cox
Abraham George Washington Cox
Ernest L. Pelton
Wilmer M. Pelton
Joe L Pelton
Robert C. Pelton
Robert O. Pelton
Joseph Washington Mathis
BF Harless
WD Harless
Cullen Harless
SL Hardcastle
Charles Hardcastle
Norman Harless
Robert W. Kelly
Jack Kelly
Marcel Kelly
Charles Dirnbauer
Mark Dirnbauer
Katie Dirnbauer
Rod Schuh
Rod Schuh, Jr.
Will Gray
John Morgan
Warren Burnett
Buck Files
Jim Brown
Rodney Williams
Pat Williams
Dr. Phillip Lewis
Maricia Brooks
Max Scott
Stan Weinberg
William Flynn
Mike McCollum
Charles Wetherbee
Terence Russell
Jesus Garza
Don Davidson
Charles Mabry
Richard Mabry
Zachary Curtis
Steven Green
Dorsie Ray Green
James Matthew Ratekin
Matthew Brent Ratekin
Donald Hoover
Don Bailey
John Hunter Smith
Eliseo Morin
Charles Easterling
Bill Torrey
Frederick Ullrich
Dale Ullrich
Louis Ullrich
Michael Finger
John David Leggington
Harry Belden
Louie Greco
Raymond Zimmerman
Charles W. Tessmer
George Miner Jr.
Bill Torrey
Louis Greco
Lorton E. Trent
Oscar Trent
Olen Poole
Max Basket
Bill Baskett
Arthur Leslie Kagan
Harry Belden
Gerald Rogen
Jesse Pruett
Max Scott
James Story Sr.
James Story II
Santiago Salinas
Tom Berg
Tom Moran
Pat McCann
Bennie Ray
Mark Vinson
Tony Chavez
John Patrick Callahan
David Patrick Callahan
Donald Hoover
Don Bailey
John Hunter Smith
Eliseo Morin
George E. Renneburg
Jeffrey Brashear
Steven Green
Lanhon Odom
John M. Economidy
Byron G, Economidy
John “Bud” Ritenour
Larry Sauer
Forrest Penney
Frederick Forlano
Daniel Moreno
Abel Palomo
Michael Moreno
Joseph Moreno
Randi Ray
Steve Green
Jeusu JD Garza
Jerry Parr
Jefferson Moore
Leonard Martinez
Stephen Ferraro
John Convery
Julie Hasdorff
Benjamin Thomas Hudson Jr.
Ebb Mobley
Louis Akin
Sergio Tristan
John Youngblood
Charles Wetherbee
Dr. William Flynn
Alfred Dane
Alvie Dane
Charles Russell
Terence Russell
David Randall
Tanner Yeats
Herman “Hank” Lankford
Robert Harold Jackson
Arlan J Broussard
Richard Trevathan
Jim Skelton
George Parnham
James Barlow
David Black
J.C. Castillo
Logan Dietz
Ralph L. Gonzalez
Connie Williams
Hal Hudson
Guy Womack
Charles W. Lanehart
Matthew Daniel
Lonzo McDonald
Patrick McDonald
Warren McDonald
Ron McLaurin
Herbert Wolf
Theodore A. (Tip) Hargrove, III
Buddy Balagia
Travis E. Kitchens
Zachary A. Garcia
Jeff King
Patrick McLain
Cullen Elrod
DeSean Jones
Joe Varela
Bob Heath
Hank Johnson
David Zimmerman
Todd Lehn
Thomas Kelton Kennedy
David G. Ritchie, Jr
Anne K. Ritchie
Bobby Mims
Bob Estrada
Edward Mallett
Mike Peters
U.S. Army Special Forces.  1969–1970
Joseph Connors, USMC
Virgil Poe
Ted Poe
Mac Cobb
Danny Morris
Neil Elliott
Ron McCoy
Jim Jordan
Kirk Holder
Rocky Hood
Mike Latimer
Mike Murphy
Richard Valdez
Donnie Martin
Portis Wooley
Don Wooley
Mike McCoy
Joe Haralson

*Killed in Action

This article is dedicated to my high school friends, Frank Dunlevy and Robert Paul Robbins, both of whom served in the 101st Airborne Division; and Jack Zimmermann, U.S. Marines; Joseph Connors; Bobby Mims; Lazaro Iziguire, 82nd Airborne; my brother, Joe Pelton, who graduated from Army Infantry Officer candidate school at age 19; and my son, Robert C. Pelton, who served as a military police officer in Enduring Freedom.

TCDLA
TCDLA
Robert Pelton
Robert Pelton
Robert Pelton is the former President of the Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association (HCCLA), Associate Director for TCDLA, and Feature Articles Editor of the Voice, as well as serving as editor and assistant editor of Docket Call. Among his many honors, Robert was named by H Texas magazine as one of the top criminal lawyers in Harris County (2004–2010) and one of Houston’s Top Lawyers for the People in criminal law (2004–2010), and he is listed in the Martindale Hubbell Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers. Robert has offices in Abilene and Houston.
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