In 2007 I served on a Williamson County grand jury hearing felony cases and determining if there was enough evidence for the district attorney to go forward with a trial. Including myself there were twelve citizens on the panel. One of the gentlemen I served with is named Wilbur Chapman. At the time he lived in Round Rock. His son was Nathan Chapman.

Sergeant First Class Nathan Chapman was a US Army Special Forces member and he was the first US military casualty of the war in Afghanistan. On January 4, 2002 he was killed by enemy fire while directing troops in combat. The war had hit home and touched a local family forever.

On September 11, 2006 at the very same Williamson County Justice Center where the grand jury met the county dedicated a statue honoring Nathan Chapman for his service. I remember the day well. As one would expect it was emotional. The monument now also includes markers with the names of other Williamson County residents who have lost their lives in military service during the Global War on Terror.

On one occasion as I was walking toward the Justice Center for grand jury duty I noticed Mr. Chapman admiring the likeness of his son. He reached up to the life size statue and placed his left hand on the right cheek of the bronze statue. It was a touching moment that I was glad to witness. I could feel his love and his pain.

Families that have a son or daughter in military service are called Blue Star Families. The tradition goes back to 1917 when a flag was designed to represent families who had members serving the country. When a military member loses his or her life the blue star is turned to gold. On January 4, 2002 the Chapman’s became Gold Star parents.   It is a color change that no family welcomes and that many fear.

On September 23, 2017 American Legion Post 911 in Cedar Park dedicated the Central Texas Gold Star Memorial Monument. The monument honors all Gold Star Family members. It’s construction and dedication is part of a fifty state effort to have one such monument in every state. The Cedar Park monument is the first in Texas and when it was dedicated it marked the thirteenth state to build one. About 400 people attended the dedication to include many Gold Star Family members. The keynote speaker was Woody Williams, the last surviving US Marine Corps recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor. The idea to build these monuments was his.

I know quite a few Gold Star family members and while there is little we can do to assuage their anguish I believe that we have created a lasting tribute to their sacrifice. The display of gratitude reflects upon the fact that not only does the military member serve, but the families serve as well.

Every year in the Texas House Chamber a large Christmas tree is decorated with unique handmade ornaments. Each of the 150 Members of the House commissions a local artist to design an ornament. This year I asked Cedar Park artist Michelle Blankenship to design the HD-136 ornament. I want to thank Michelle for doing such a great job. She made a great representation of the Gold Star Monument.

Her ornament shows the four granite panels with the words, Family, Homeland, Patriotism, and Sacrifice. During this Christmas season I hope that all Gold Star Families are reminded and comforted to know that Central Texas embraces them. We should all pray for peace, but we must never forget our warriors and their families.

Representative Dale is Vice Chairman of the Juvenile Justice & Family Issues Committee and is a member of the Environmental Regulation Committee and he is Chairman of the Texas House Energy Caucus. He represents southwestern Williamson County, Cedar Park, Leander, Brushy Creek, and parts of Austin and Round Rock.