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Air Force veteran encourages peers to pass on values they learned in service

Andrea Tart said she’s wondered for years whether her answer to the call was influenced by her family’s 250-year history of military service.

Tart, a nine-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force, was the guest speaker Thursday morning during Denton County’s Veterans Day hour-long celebration. Situated in front of the county’s veteran memorial, about one hundred guests listened to Tart recounting her own history and how much service opportunity changed for women in the last few decades since she joined in 1984.

“I was fortunate to live in a time when women’s ability to serve in the full spectrum of military career fields was just opening up in the late ‘80s,” Tart said. “We were only allowed to fly non-combat aircraft, but we were still allowed to fly. And now 35 years later, we see women in most combat jobs across all services.”

Thursday’s celebration was the county’s 11th event in collaboration with the local universities. Speakers hyped up the county’s dedication to helping veterans, naming several organizations and facilities available to them as they transition back to civilian life.

Hats donned the heads of men and women with the different branches and wars they served in. Several women boasted Women Veterans of America Chapter 48 and several men showed off American Legion hats. Dozens of attendees wore uniforms from different branches.

The crowd gazed in awe as the event’s flyby — a pilot whose helicopter was decked out in camo — came down at a safe distance away from the Denton County Courthouse-on-the-Square. A large American flag flew on one side of the Square, supported by two Denton Fire Department trucks.

Photos by Jeff Woo/DRC 

U.S. Air Force Capt. Andrea Tart gives a speech during a Veterans Day ceremony at the Courthouse on the Square on Thursday.

With the long line of family in service, Tart wondered if the call to service was in her DNA or if it was a learned behavior. While she didn’t have the answer, she said she knows the military service is part of who she is.

Tart encouraged the veterans in the crowd to pass on the values they learned in service in the different branches: service before self and excellence, loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, personal courage, honor, courage and commitment.

“Each of you has your own legacy of service to pass along,” she said. “You have answered the call that your country called, and you need to do something with that because not everyone is able to or decides to answer the call.”

Coming off a recent orientation for high schoolers seeking out military service, Congressman Michael Burgess said he wasn’t sure if anyone would show up on that September morning. The airport bombing in Kabul, Afghanistan was fresh in people’s minds.

“Is any student going to want to put themselves in service and sacrifice with what they had just witnessed?” Burgess said. “And I got to tell you, it was standing room only at Guyer auditorium that Saturday morning at 8 o’clock. ... We are so grateful to have the citizens who are willing to step forward when their country requires.”

A shelf cloud rolls into north Denton near C.H. Collins Athletic Complex as the dry line and cold front move over Denton County with gusty winds and torrential rain Wednesday night.

Texas said delta-8 is illegal. But state troopers haven’t made a single arrest.

Over the past month, there has been increasing confusion over delta-8, the popular cannabis derivative that until recently could be found in vape cartridges, tinctures and candy at smoke shops and CBD stores across the state.

On the one hand, the Texas health department insists delta-8 is a controlled substance, and that it has been on the state’s list of unlawful drugs — also known as Schedule I drugs — for 40 years. But on the other hand, a recent court ruling temporarily stopped the state from keeping delta-8 on the scheduled substances list.

“THC was already on Texas’ Schedule I when the Legislature gave scheduling authority to the Commissioner of Health in 1989, and it has remained on Schedule I since that time,” said Lara Anton, a Texas Department of State Health Services spokesperson wrote.

So far, the Texas Department of Public Safety, the state’s law enforcement agency, has yet to make one arrest.

“DPS will continue to base its enforcement efforts on current statute,” said Ericka Miller, a DPS spokesperson. And because there’s no law against the substance, there have been no arrests by state troopers.

This legal impasse has left Texans and retailers scratching their heads on what they can and cannot buy and sell.

“It’s a huge gray area,” Rick Trojan III, a board member of the Hemp Industries Association, said. “The whole thing is confusing for everyone involved. It sounds like DSHS doesn’t even understand.”

And it is in this gray area where district attorneys, law enforcement officials and CBD dispensaries have been operating, all trying to navigate through the legal tangle.

A quick primer: Cannabis plants are classified as either marijuana or hemp, depending on their level of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the active ingredient that produces the “high” experienced by marijuana users. Hemp has less than 0.3% of THC. Marijuana is a cannabis plant that has more than 0.3% of THC.

Hemp production was banned decades ago, when all cannabis products including marijuana were outlawed under the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937. But in 2018, the federal Farm Bill legalized hemp production.

Following the passage of that farm bill, a comprehensive measure for agriculture programs and food production, states began to write their own laws concerning hemp production.

In 2019, Texas passed House Bill 1325, which legalized hemp growing in the state. And like the federal standard, the Texas law defines hemp as a cannabis plant with a THC level of up to 0.3% concentration.

And that’s where delta-8 comes in. Delta-8 is a substance that is found naturally in hemp but it is produced in such low quantities that the substance that can be found in vape cartridges, candy and tinctures is likely manufactured.

And this is where the confusion begins. Many believed, since the 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp, that delta-8 would also be legal. And since it had less than 0.3% of THC, the 2019 Texas law would also allow it.

“Those of us in the industry have been espousing for over a year now that delta-8 is, and always has been, a legal substance ever since the hemp farm bill,” said Ian Bush, the brand director at Hii Stick, a delta-8 retailer.

Confusion over whether delta-8 is legal to sell became such an issue — two years after the state’s hemp bill was approved — that on Oct. 15, the Texas health agency updated its website to clarify for the public that clarified that delta-8 was a Schedule I substance and therefore illegal. It maintains that delta-8, while it was being sold in stores, was never legal in Texas because the 2019 law never mentioned it.

The state’s notice did little to clear the air. Retailers challenged it in court and now the state is facing multiple lawsuits attempting to block DSHS from criminalizing delta-8. On Monday, state District Judge Jan Soifer, in Austin, granted a temporary injunction against the state, momentarily making delta-8 legal. However, the state is expected to appeal the ruling and both sides admit there is a “long road ahead,” according to Vape City attorney Michelle Donovan.

In the meantime, there appears to be no rush to prosecute anyone for selling it.

“I am not aware of any police agency having brought us a delta-8 case,” said Dane Schiller, spokesperson for the Harris County District Attorney’s Office.

The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

UNT homecoming wraps this weekend with football, spirit march and more
  • Updated

The University of North Texas has been celebrating homecoming all week and will cap off the annual celebration with a weekend of football, tailgating, music and spirit.

Jeff Woo/DRC file photo 

Parade participants cheer for the crowd during the UNT Homecoming parade on the Square in November 2019.

It’s a return to homecoming after events were canceled due to the pandemic in 2020.

The weekend celebration will kick off on Friday with a screening of a mini-documentary, This is Eli Young Band, which features the Grammy-nominated country band that got its start in Denton on the UNT campus. The screening starts at 2:30 p.m. Friday at the Lyceum and is followed by a panel discussion about the band, the documentary and how the campus played a role in the band and its artistic vision.

Jeff Woo/DRC file photo 

North Texas cheerleaders and Scrappy, the mascot of the University of North Texas, wave to the crowd during the UNT Homecoming parade near the Courthouse on the Square, Saturday, November 2, 2019, in Denton, Texas.

A spirit march will start at 7 p.m. on Friday at Fraternity Row and Maple Street. Students and alumni can proceed west on Maple Street to the bonfire site on the north parking lot at Apogee Stadium.

The homecoming bonfire starts at 8 p.m. on Friday, and at the same time, Eli Young Band will perform in concert at the UNT Coliseum, 601 N. Texas Blvd. Friday night’s homecoming events with team competition awards begin at 9 p.m.

Marshall Reid 

UNT Torch Bearers, a subset of the Talons, ready their torches to light the homecoming bonfire on Friday, Oct. 26, 2018. The 23 members of the Talons who put in the most hours toward the bonfire in the previous week earn the honor of being a torch bearer.

This year, UNT won’t have a homecoming parade. Tailgating starts before the UNT vs. University of Texas at El Paso kickoff at 3 p.m.

The university honored two alumni Thursday night with Distinguished Alumni awards: Wilson Jones, who grew up in Denton and served as the CEO of Oshkosh Corp. during his nearly 10 years at the company; and Michael Penaluna, a UNT faculty member who also has worked for the city of Denton’s emergency management.

Deadly stretch of Denton road to be replaced by elevated bridge
  • Updated

Denton drivers are a few years away from having a four-lane bridge to replace the winding section of Hickory Creek Road near Country Club Road.

Denton’s City Council on Tuesday unanimously greenlit the use of eminent domain — if necessary — to purchase slices of 11 properties to facilitate that vision. Eminent domain allows some government entities to forcibly purchase private lands for public uses.

A straight, elevated bridge is expected to be finished sometime around June 2024. That will eliminate the dangerous curves along that route, and the elevation will bring the roadway out of the floodplain.

The curved section of Hickory Creek Road has been the scene of several traffic deaths, including the 2019 deaths of two teenaged brothers whose car was found submerged along the roadway.

Their deaths resulted in a wave of safety improvements to the stretch of road. Guardrails, streetlights and flashing signs popped up along the road, but the next phase of construction will instead create a new road south of the existing dangerous section.

Dustin Draper, a project manager for the city, said it’s a safety issue the city is trying to address with this addition.

“It takes a lot of safety issues out when you build a bridge [in that area],” Draper said.

Draper said the bridge will begin roughly at Riverpass Drive, which is where a natural elevation change occurs. Its bottom will be, on average, 15 feet above grade as it extends west and touches down close to the existing Hilltop Road.

Rachel Wood, deputy director of capital projects for the city, said the existing section of Hickory Creek Road will be gated for limited access by emergency services and adjacent landowner use.

Construction is slated to start in June 2022, with completion roughly two years later, but it’s actually the third segment of a larger construction project that kicked off in August 2020.

The first phase widened Hickory Creek Road from Barrel Strap Road to Teasley Lane. The second phase picked up that work, along with storm drains and a sidewalk, from Teasley Lane until Riverpass Drive.

Each of those phases was paid for with funds from the city’s 2014 bond program, and they had estimated budgets of $3.3 million and $6.2 million, respectively.

The second phase also drew funding from the city’s 2012 bond program, according to a city website.

The third phase, which includes the elevated bridge, is budgeted for $54 million and will be paid for from the city’s 2019 bond program. It will help to fulfill the city’s goal of having a straight connection between FM 1830 and FM 2181 via Hickory Creek Road, but that isn’t the final objective.

Wood said the city hopes to eventually have fourth and fifth phases of construction that will extend the roadway all the way to Interstate 35W, though the specifics and funding for that project hadn’t been determined by Thursday afternoon.