It’s that time of year again.  And the compatriots of East Texas, and their ladies, know how to make this season special, soft, and Confederate! The holiday season means parades and camp gatherings attended by compatriots from all over East Texas.  This year’s started with parades, the drum beat of Ben Hay and the confident smile of an experienced East Texas Honor Guard commander Paul Hamilton.  Paul has been our leader for years, and he reminds me of the best of the very best of the Army NCO Corps!
The parties start with the Upshur County Patriots who meet the First Tuesday of the month.  Their Christmas gathering is at the Walking S Restaurant owned by one of their charter members, and first commander Bill Starnes.  Together with his wife Becky, they work to provide the meats and other aspects of the meal. The rest of ladies bake and cook at home to bring all the delicious homemade foods which I look forward to at these Christmas events.  Pastor Jamie Eitson has given several of the holiday season talks.  He is a foundational part of the Patriots.  His joy, faith, smile, and great affection for the Patriots beams like a light to anyone who attends a Patriot gathering.  And many do attend their meetings, but Christmas brings even more than usual. Jackie Smith, the Patriots fifth commander (Starnes, Vogl, Linton, Sides), and his wife greet those who arrive, and rush around making sure all is in order.
And, at the Patriots, they annually do a special ceremony, conceived and developed by their third camp commander George Linton, the Roll of Honor.  All the members of the camp rise and circle around the man selected to call the roll.  Then the name of each patriot of the Confederacy who is the sponsor for a member is called, and the respective member sounds off “ Here sir, and present for duty.”  It is a moving ceremony to end the Patriots Christmas dinner.
The great generosity of Bill Starnes and his wife Becky, is not unique to one East Texas Camp.  Sam Satterwhite who allows the use of his business facility to host camp meetings throughout the year, makes a special contribution during the holidays when he makes available a beautiful family log home.  Again, compatriots and Southern belles come from miles to attend this event.  Jerry and Marilyn Boulding, Jim Benton and his wife come from the Sulphur Springs Camp along Brigade Commander Tom Clinkscales and his wife.  A strong contingent from the Patriots attends every year.  Commander Sam Mercer and some of his boys join the gathering.  Former Brigade Commander Mac Meredith does the work necessary to ensure all in East Texas are aware of this grand event.  Phil Maynard, Commander of the brand new Red Diamond Camp in Texarkana and his wife drive the two hours to make the event!
Robert Bailey, commander of the Lane Camp, and his members which include Division Chaplain Jerry Haymes and East Texas Honor Guard Commander Paul Hamilton make Patriot Chris Loyd and everyone welcome with warm smiles and bear hugs.  And of course we are all happy to see the generous host, and our friend Sam Satterwhite.  Like many other compatriots, Sam is a very special man whose generosity is only the tip of the ice berg for his heart, and the feelings he has for the South, and the men who share his deep love of East Texas.
The Lane Christmas is special because of the “homey” environment of the beautiful log residence and rich menu of fine East Texas cuisine prepared by the ladies who annually attend the event.
This year we were especially blessed with one of the finest leaders, and thinkers in the Texas Division, former Division Commander Greg Manning.  He traveled all the way from Salado to be with the East Texas boys and provide a presentation.  Greg is the author of two recently published books.  A retired Army Lt. Colonel, Greg is comfortable speaking publicly and more importantly leading.  Mac Meredith said in his introduction of Greg, “Greg had the finest division administration in my twelve years in the SCV.” And, Mac is so right!  My prayers are that Greg will once again take up the mantle of senior leadership within our organization.  Where he leads, we will follow.
And it’s not over yet, Sam Mercer and his wife Christy will host the Gregg Camp Christmas later this week.  We can be sure to see Alvin Colvin, the brigade photographer and others from this second Longview camp.  Butch and his wife will most likely be there.  And Commander Sam says he may have some new compatriots joining his camp at this meeting.  
Cliff Johnson, commander of the Douglas Camp was at the Lane Camp Christmas and you can bet he will be working with a number of men and women of the Douglas Camp, and their auxiliary OCR to organize a special Christmas event in Tyler!
The Tyler United Daughters of the Confederacy, Mollie Moore Davis, Chapter 217, will hold their annual Christmas get-together and meet a very special Texas Confederate, Lt. Dick Dowling!  Maxine Herbst, President of the Tyler Chapter, made special arrangements to have this long passed Irish – Catholic come for a visit.
The Christmas season is so special because Jesus is coming.  But being a part of the East Texas S.C.V., one is blessed with a Southern, Confederate warmth and joy.  And the group of people who attend these events is growing.  The Sesquicentennial is part of it, part of it is the new camps and part of it is our God bringing new friends to join us. 
I wish I could be with all of you, each of the eighty camps of the Texas Division during this joyous season.  Men, there have been strains within the division and there will be more. Like our own nation, our organization faces choices, tough choices.  But, I believe most of the men in this division can get past the differences to maintain, sustain, and build on the deep friendships which exist. Christmas is a time for this.  It is God’s time.  It is a time when Christ is coming!  It is a time when we can see only the best in each other.  I pray God brings you what you need.
I pray that your heart fills with His Spirit, that your mind knows He is with you.  Merry Christmas, and God Bless, I am,
Your Obedient Servant,
Mark Vogl, Lt. Commander
Texas Division, SCV