BeBe Winans and Margaret Bell perform during the convention's Patriotic Memorial Service. (Photo by Eldon Lindsay)

Gospel star says 'thank you' through song

Six-time Grammy Award winning gospel singer BeBe Winans and vocalist Margaret Bell gave hundreds of American Legion members a musical treat and tribute Sunday at the 2013 National Convention Patriotic Memorial Service in Houston.

"Love, I have found, is an action word – you have served and shown, in action, how much you love God and country, family, and each other," Winans told the crowd between duets of "Love Lift Us Up" and "God Bless America" with Bell. "Today, it is an honor to stand here and say through song, 'Thank you.'"

American Legion National Chaplain Ronald Derrick of Idaho gave a message that centered on a comparison between sports and entertainment celebrities and  those who serve in more dangerous theaters, with the U.S. Armed Forces. "Of those we honor today, a few may have tried, and even succeeded, in moon-walking across the stage, to the screams of adoring fans," Derrick said. "But many of those we honor this day did march across the fields on foreign soil and were greeted by the cheers, and the tears, of a liberated people."

His message also credited the vigilance of those at home who have supported U.S. military men and women.  "I speak especially of our Auxiliary and Sons," he said, "who deserve an award for best supporting role. They stood by the bedsides of our heroes in the VA hospitals and the veterans' homes. They stood on the sidewalks with flags and banners to welcome home our troops. And they stood and reached out a hand of help to the homeless veteran."

Department of Texas Chaplain Harvey Klee read scriptures and introduced American Legion dignitaries who placed wreaths on the stage in honor of veterans and active-duty troops who lost their lives in the last year.

American Legion National Commander James E. Koutz and National Adjutant Daniel S. Wheeler placed a wreath for the Legion; National President Peggy Thomas and National Secretary Mary "Dubbie" Buckler placed a wreath for the American Legion Auxiliary; National Commander Chris Huntzinger and National Adjutant Brian O'Hearne placed a wreath for Sons of The American Legion; and Le Chapeau National Maria Crothers and La-Secretaire-Cassiere Nationale Margaret Sheridan of Idaho placed a wreath for the Eight and Forty.

Simeon Toronto of Minnesota, the 2013 American Legion Boys Nation president, lit a candle of remembrance following the POW/MIA Empty Chair prayer.