The Three Rivers Chamber of Commerce honored local residents and organizations of the year and heard about how the community inspired a war hero and his brother during a banquet held April 12 at the Three Rivers Junior/Senior High Student Activities Center.
Eddie Ray, the twin brother of Clovis Ray, a first lieutenant guiding his U.S. Army platoon, died on March 15, 2012 at age 34 in Afghanistan. During the banquet, his twin brother, Eddie Ray, talked about the impact that growing up in Three Rivers had on him and Clovis. The two graduated from Three Rivers High School in 1995.
“This is my hometown,” Ray said, who now lives in Houston with his wife and four children. “Any opportunity I have, I always love to come back to Three Rivers.
“We didn’t have a lot as kids but we did have loving parents, grandparents, a passionate love of football and a community that took us in as their own. At an early age, we learned values, to stand up for what’s right and that if we wanted to be something we had to work hard. You definitely get a great education and good quality of life in Three Rivers.”
Striving for excellence was encouraged because “everybody was behind you — you wanted to be excellent,” Ray said.
Clovis joined the military at age 32, and “an officer said that never really happened, but he wanted to make a difference,” Ray said. “At age 32 he was competing with 18-year-olds in basic training and with 22-year-olds at (Officer Candidate School). He graduated at the top of his class and got his pick of anything he wanted to do, and he chose to go into the infantry.”
The United States had troops at the time in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and after a stopover at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii, Clovis was deployed to a notoriously dangerous area of Afghanistan near the border with Pakistan.
“Two commanding officers of the platoon had been injured and had to be evacuated, so Clovis was made commanding officer,” Ray said. “When he got there morale was really low. Clovis came in with a lot of excitement and got the team motivated, reminding them they were there to snuff out terror, protect and help people.”
During a patrol, Clovis became suspicious that something wasn’t right, and decided to do a sweep of the area.
“That’s when the attack happened,” Ray said.
After Clovis’ death, Ray was flown to Schofield Barracks for a memorial for his brother, which included a 21-gun salute. Ray recalled that the troops gathered who had served under his brother looked at him and many cried, and talked about how much Clovis had meant to them.
“They said they were so grateful, that because of Clovis they survived,” Ray said.
The brigadier general told Ray that the Kunar Province where Clovis was sent was the most dangerous part of Afghanistan.
“They had been in 90 battles — a fight every other day , and they were 90-0 before that day (in which Clovis was killed),” Ray said. The general told Ray that was similar to a Michael Jordan level of excellence on the basketball court.
“He raised the bar for excellence just like we learned in Three Rivers — that’s what he did,” Ray said.
While the country and the world has been rocked by the COVID-19 pandemic and other difficulties, Ray said “I really believe we are turning the corner and on our way to success, getting everyone vaccinated. Whatever challenges happen in life, we have to rise to the occasion, and strive for excellence.”
That’s what those public servants such as police, firefighters, EMS, health care professionals, teachers, coaches and others do on a daily basis, “they continue to serve,” Ray said.
He encouraged people to appreciate those who serve the community and make a positive difference and to “keep this town great. Keep the core values that made this place great. Make it like Clovis.”
Awards presented at the banquet included:
• The Three Rivers first responders, Civic Organization of the Year
• The Three Rivers Volunteer Fire Department, Volunteers of the Year
• Leon Martinez, Citizen of the Year
• Hailie Council, Young Adult of the Year
• LeeAnn Barker, Educator of the Year
• Valero Three Rivers Refinery as Business of the Year
The winner of the 50-50 Raffle (half the money is donated to the TR Chamber scholarship fund and half can be kept by the winner) was Christina Salazar. The raffle generated $388 for the scholarship fund.