Veterans Day dedication to honor 21

Almost exactly one year from the date the first formal construction efforts were made, the new military complex at the Heart of Texas Historical Museum is set to be dedicated this Sunday, Veterans Day in a ceremony to begin at 3 p.m. Fittingly scheduled for Veterans Day, the dedication ceremony will be centered around the reading of the names of the 21 cadets and instructors who lost their lives while training World War II pilots at Curtis Field in the1940s. The new museum display is housed in the actual control tower building that was rescued from demolition and relocated to its the museum grounds from its historical place at Curtis Field. “This effort is unique to anywhere in Central Texas and possibly in the entire nation,” said Bert Striegler, the person largely responsible for seeing the project through to completion. “There are few, if any, other towns who have an actual World War II period wooden control tower structure located just a block off the downtown square.” The project was created as part of the local museum’s efforts to preserve the rich military history of McCulloch County. For that reason, the entire military memorial annex is dedicated to honoring the lives of both past and current veterans. “The real purpose of this annex is for it to be a living memorial to all of the guys who went through the war, went through the gates of the P.O.W. camp, went off to war and never came home all the way up to the ones who serve today in our military services,” said Striegler. The annex is composed of three separate structures, each with significant historical significance’the old P.O.W. camp guard shack, the guard shack from Curtis Field and the main structure which was the main control tower at the airfield. “These walls and doors are the same ones that every one of those 10,000 cadets walked through back in the early 1940s,” said Striegler. “It really means something that this is that same structure that will now preserve and honor their memory,” said Striegler. In constructing the annex, the museum board did all it could to make it as historically accurate as possible. The roof, stones and slab from the actual P.O.W. Camp guard shack were used to rebuild the current structure. Photos of the air control tower and building taken from private collections were used to restore the dilapidated structure to near- mint condition. The main structure is now home to a variety of displays ranging from old uniforms donated by area citizens to photos and bits of history that each has a story that can’t be told by a simple identity card. A quick glance in one of the cabinets will catch the attention of many as a Nazi swastika is displayed amongst several other items. Together, they make up a story of a German prisoner who was incarcerated at the P.O.W. Camp who later returned to Brady with his wife and American-born sons to revisit his past. Another cabinet contains memorabilia surrounding the small French town, that gave a downed American pilot from Brady a hero’s burial despite reprisals from the German army. Above that cabinet is a wooden plaque carved from a pew in the church of that small town of Remy, France. The plaque, inscribed in French, honors the life of Lt. Houston Lee Braly, the young pilot from Brady who died in their town fighting for their cause. In researching the history of the cadets who trained as pilots at Curtis Field in the early days of World War II, it has been determined that of the 10,000 men who trained at the facility, an estimated 3,500 never made it home from their deployment. “A 35 percent casualty rate is quite considerable when you look at the numbers,” said Striegler. Not to overshadow the sacrifices those made, the dedication ceremony will feature a somber roll call of each of the names of the 21 lives that were lost while training at Curtis Field. A list of dignitaries including Col. Richard Ayres, commander of Goodfellow, AFB as well as Maj. Gen. Don Daniel, Brig. Gen. Harry Huff and Lt. Col. Dave Kennedy will add remarks. When asked why this project was being done, Striegler remarked that many adults and even more children in McCulloch County don’t know about what happened here during World War II. “Our goal for this project is to educate the public about what happened right here in Brady,” he said. “Everybody who was here during that time was affected by the war. As a teenager at the time, I was at a very impressionable age and we all took part in doing what we could.”

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