By Brittany Anderson
KYLE — A special ceremony was held on March 10 to celebrate a World War II veteran and hospice patient for his military service and life lived.
Wesley O’Neal “Neal” Pennington, 94, is a current resident of The Philomena, a senior living home in Kyle. He served in the United States Navy between February 1945 and October 1949, serving on the USS WILTSIE DD 716, a destroyer, and garnering a Good Conduct Medal, China Service Medal, American Area Campaign Medal and World War II Victory Medal throughout his years in service.
Present at the ceremony were several members of Neal’s family, including his wife, daughter, son, younger brother and sister, sister-in-law and niece, as well as residents of the home, members of Neal’s care team and Kyle Mayor Travis Mitchell.
Chaplain Larry Monteverde of Aspen Hospice and Palliative Care led the service, along with various members of the Kyle VFW Post 12058 and American Legion Post 83 who served as an honor guard. Marti Mace, a bagpiper and retired Master Sergeant who served for 39 years, opened the ceremony with playing the Battle Hymn of the Republic on bagpipes.
During the ceremony, Pennington was presented with a World War II victory medal, a U.S. Navy pin, a challenge coin from the New Braunfels Police Department, an American flag on behalf of the VFW and American Legion posts, a hat presented by Mitchell with a destroyer logo and a certificate of appreciation for “advancing the universal hope of freedom and liberty for all” to hang on his wall.
Additionally, the other 19 veterans in the home received a certificate honoring their service, presented by Jenny Jensen of Aspen Hospice.
“It is a privilege to be here to honor all of these veterans,” Monteverde said. “We’re so grateful for their service and sacrifice for our country.”
In his remarks, Mayor Mitchell thanked Pennington and other veterans at the home, saying that their sacrifices have led to the life that we collectively get to live today.
“You don’t hear many stories,” Mitchell said. “There are very few generations, I think, that have lived the life of the greatest generation — in particular those who served in WWII. Most of our WWII veterans were born and raised in … a very, very different time. From there to where we are today, you can see this great difference in our country. And that was bought by blood. They paved the way for us.”
Pennington and his family expressed their thanks before Monteverde read a chaplain’s prayer to Neal, and Marti closed out the ceremony by playing Amazing Grace on the bagpipes.
“We are deeply indebted to veterans like Neal … he has lived a life befitting a sailor of honor and a valued human being,” Monteverde read in his prayer. “Thank you God for sparing the life of a genuine military hero … comfort, fortify and sustain him now in this season of his life that he needs you more than ever.”