By JOHN EDNEY
Kilgore Veterans Association Committee Chairman
The U.S. Veterans Monument in Kilgore was built to pay respect and honor to the veterans in our community.
I lived here all my life and there was never anything for the veterans - our city leaders just never got around to it. So I just took it upon myself to do something about it - to me, this was a problem.
First thing was to get all my information correct. Then I heard they were going to build Harris Street Park - got a committee together and plans started coming together. I visited all the monuments around East Texas because I did not want ours to be like the others.
The black granite pieces were to match the Vietnam Wall in Washington D.C. The center piece would list all military branches, and the U.S. Flag would be engraved in the center.
With the committee's go-ahead, the next job was securing our funds. I visited all the clubs: Lions, Rotary, anywhere they would have me, even Walmart. All donated funds to help. Then the call went out to veterans and veterans' families - they, too, wanted to see the monument become a reality.
The project progressed quickly with the community support and that of the city, as well - they agreed to pour the concrete slab and erect our three flagpoles. We were cooking now, but there was still plenty of legwork to create the memorial.
Any veteran can have their name on the monument. They have to pay for engraving and help in purchasing military vehicles for the park. To date, we have a derrick provided by the local oil companies as well as a World War II Howitzer Cannon brought in from Kentucky. We have a 1900 ship's anchor and a World War II ship's anchor and are working on a Korean War ambulance, that actually served during the war, and a Vietnam War-era jeep. They should be ready next Memorial Day. Future plans include installing a vintage airplane at the park - any help would be very appreciated in securing military vehicles.
We're proud to say the park stands out in being one of the better small town parks in saluting our veterans in Texas.
The veterans association and the city work very hard in keeping it maintained, engraving new names, and hosting a great program for our veterans every Memorial Day and Veterans Day. All are welcome to come and stand under the pair of dog tags hanging from the derricks - the largest in Texas at 2-feet by 4-feet, as we honor the men and women who served, and are serving, this great country.
So now Kilgore has a great place for you to go out and sit down and remember your veteran. There are over 2,000 names on the wall, and more to come. If you want to have your veteran's name on the wall, call 903-987-9352.
Serving as the chairperson has been a dream come true for me. I hope it is a proud moment for you all as well, to see this U.S. Veterans Monument in Kilgore standing out at the park and for many years to come. May God Bless our veterans.
- John Edney is a 100% Disabled Combat Veteran having served in Ban Me Thuot, South Vietnam.
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