The Paces never really saw patriotism as a call of duty.


Instead, Velma and Johnny Pace viewed their devotion to country as more of a privilege.


From the bright red sign that adorns their back fence and states “Proud To Be an American” to the numerous members of their family that have proudly served the nation in various branches of the armed forces, they have lived out their patriotism in a very obvious manner.


Johnny worked in the Air Force for more than 10 years, working as a linguist fluent in German and Czech who was for a time stationed in Frankfurt, Germany, as well as San Antonio. Their son, Brian, was an officer in the Navy with a tour in Iraq. Another son, Ronny, served in the Navy, and Velma’s first husband, George, did a stint as an intelligence officer in the Army.


“It just runs in our family,” Velma said. “We’re supposed to protect our country. We’ve always been very patriotic.”


The Pace family is one of a dozen families featured in the American-Statesman’s annual Season for Caring program, which helps hundreds of families through local nonprofit organizations. The Pace family was nominated by Meals on Wheels Central Texas.


Their son, Howard Spain, 65, probably would have served as well, but he was born with intellectual disabilities and has had bouts with blood clots in his legs and colorectal cancer, which is in remission. He experienced high fevers and convulsions from the time he was 4 months old until they stopped when he was 6.


Howard spends his days at home under his mother’s care.


“He likes electronics,” his mother said. “He’s always on his computer or his notebook.”


Howard has lived with his parents his entire life but worked for 20 years as a dishwasher at a local Denny’s.


These days he’ll play video games at home and watch cowboy movies starring John Wayne. He used to love fishing although he jokes that he wasn’t all that great at it. “Everybody else caught all the fish,” he said.


He loves his mother’s cooking, especially when she fixed red beans and rice or his favorite dish, sausage with peppers and onions. Now they mostly eat the three meals brought daily by Meals on Wheels


It’s been a full-time job for Velma Pace, 84, to take care of Howard and Johnny, 82, even though she has had her own medical issues with recent heart surgery, a brain aneurysm and persistent stomach problems.


Velma Pace meticulously organizes their medical appointments and provides constant care with the help of hospice, which added their assistance after Johnny’s bad fall and hip injury in August. But she rarely leaves his side.


“He’s been getting sicker and sicker,” she said, “and he’s starting to forget things. One thing about the man, though, I’ve never been bored.”


The Paces need new appliances; help with respite care, living room furniture, and gift cards to H-E-B.


To find out more the Pace family or to give something on the wish list, contact Meals on Wheels Central Texas, 512-476-6325, mealsonwheelscentraltexas.org.