Memorial Day holds special significance for one prominent Texan

May 27, 2013 4:55:13 PM PDT
For one Texan, Memorial Day holds a special significance. Several generations of Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson's family have served in the military, and he has relatives buried at Houston's National Cemetery. Patterson's father and grandfather are buried here, at one of the nation's largest veterans' cemeteries.

"Every generation that I can remember has served," Patterson said. "Texans have always answered the call."

Houston's National Cemetery is a sacred place for thousands of people, perhaps none more than Jerry Patterson.

He recalled, "When my dad died in 1971, we had a funeral for him here, with military honors. My grandfather in 1979 had a funeral over there."

Growing up, Patterson would hear dramatic stories about World Wars I and II from his grandfather, Navy man Emmett Patterson. Then more stories from his father, Jerry Dan Patterson, who flew in the US Army Air Corps in World War II and during the Korean War. In fact, Patterson's lineage dates back to his great-grandfather, James Monroe Cole, who served in the 12th Louisiana Infantry in the war between the states.

"When I was growing up all my uncles were war vets. It's just what you knew you were going to do," Patterson explained.

And so he did. Now, returning as Texas Land Commissioner to the same cemetery where he buried his father and grandfather, Patterson shared his own stories as a veteran Marine pilot during Vietnam. And then, there's his son.

"Travis is a major in the Marine Corps, a helicopter pilot," Patterson said. "He's been to Iraq twice."

Five generations, one compelling force. To thank one, he says, is really a nod to them all.

"None of us by any shape could be considered heroes," Patterson said. "Most of these people here, they just answered the call."

Patterson says typically he celebrates Memorial Day with a holiday barbecue as so many others do, but he reminds everyone to take just a moment to remember our service men and women.

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