“Nobody signs up to win the Medal of Honor. You earn it at the intersection of happenstance and hell, and you’re there because that’s what your country has asked of you.”
These poignant words from the book Medal of Honor: Portraits of Valor Beyond the Call of Duty summarize the situations combat veterans know all too well. On Nov. 11, Veteran’s Day, we will celebrate their courage, selflessness, and positive action in the face of hellacious odds.
Medal of Honor recipient Clarence Sasser, a native of Brazoria County who received his award from President Richard Nixon in 1969, will celebrate Veteran’s Day 2013 the same way he has for the last 15 years—with a veterans’ celebration hosted by a small group of close childhood friends and fellow servicemen. Over the years, the event has drawn up to 200 people to Rayford Williams Park, on the banks of the Brazos River just south of Houston. To kick off the celebration this year with style and help honor Airborne veterans, Sasser has invited skydivers from Skydive Spaceland to jump into the park.
“We are extremely honored that Mr. Sasser has invited us to help his group celebrate our nation’s veterans,” says Skydive Spaceland owner Steve Boyd.
Far from feeling entitled by his accomplishments and honor, a humble Sasser says, “This is our chance to give back and promote a little patriotism. When the Vietnam veterans came back home, patriotism was almost nonexistent—some of us experienced that. It’s great to see the upswell in patriotism these days.”
Sasser received his medal following his service as an Army medic in the 9th Infantry Division in Vietnam, during which his company landed unexpectedly on a reconnaissance mission when the lead helicopter crashed under enemy fire in the Mekong Delta in 1968. The eleven other helicopters landed to support their fallen comrades, and Sasser’s services were quickly needed in the heavy fire. Despite suffering from a shrapnel wound in one shoulder and bullet wounds that disabled both legs, he continued to treat wounded infantrymen flat on his belly to avoid fire. He also rallied disoriented soldiers to cover where they could fight back until their eventual evacuation 18 hours after landing.
He prefers not to dwell on the past, however, instead focusing on the celebration he calls “Salute to Veterans by Veterans.” Sasser and his friends Lobis Crawford, Amus Goods, and Solomon Tigner will host all comers with a meet and greet featuring barbecue, beverages, skydiving, a very short program honoring veterans, and a 21-gun salute starting at about noon.
“Come on out and enjoy our company, pat someone on the back and tell them thank you,” he encourages everyone. “Bask in the glory of our nation’s celebrated veterans. We’ll continue this event as long as we have the interest and bodies to put it on.”
Rayford Williams Park is located at 6322 County Road 42 near Rosharon, Texas. The festivities will kick off with Skydive Spaceland jumpers landing at approximately 12:00 pm (weather permitting), and all are welcome.
About Skydive Spaceland
Skydive Spaceland is a three-generation family-owned and -operated skydiving business located in Rosharon, Texas, just south of downtown Houston, Texas. First opened for business in February 2000 by Steve Boyd, Sr., Skydive Spaceland has grown into a truly world-class skydiving facility open 7 days a week and capable of handling hundreds of skydivers jumping daily. More than 100,000 skydiving students have been instructed at Spaceland and the center facilitates about 100,000 skydives per year.
Skydive Spaceland has also played host to the world’s largest skydiving competition, the United Parachuting Association National Skydiving Championships (2009) , as well as several other large competitions including the U.S. National Collegiate Parachuting Championships and multiple U.S. National Canopy Piloting Championships. Several state, national, and world skydiving records have also been set at Spaceland including the Texas State Record 150-person skydive in 2007, 168-person skydive in 2011, 4-person formation skydiving (longest sequence) in 2009, canopy piloting speed and distance in 2009, and multiple Women’s Texas State Record skydives held jointly as fundraisers for Jump for the Rose, a Houston-area breast cancer clinic.