Kilgore veterans are extending a special invitation to anyone who would like to celebrate Memorial Day – and the lives of those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
Monday, of course, is the United States’ annual celebration for those brave individuals, and there will once again be a program here. It will be held at the U.S. Veterans Memorial at the park on Harris Street, near Stream-Flo softball field and Driller Park.
The program, which will include a speaker, music, honoring of the flag, veterans in attendance and a special recognizing of those who lost their lives for this country, will begin at 9 a.m.
Unfortunately, due to the coronavirus, there will need to be social distancing. The entire community is welcome, but those who attend should bring lawn chairs for themselves, and should keep virus social protocol in effect: about six to seven feet apart.
Rain will cancel, and is in local forecasts for Monday.
Anyone having their own Memorial Day get-together is encouraged to pause for one minute at 3 p.m. for a moment of silence in honor of those service men and women who gave their lives for this country.
If anyone knows a name that is not on the memorial that needs to be, please contact John Edney at (903) 987-0289.
For those who can’t be in attendance, if the weather holds off and the ceremony is held, the Kilgore News Herald will have photos and coverage of the ceremony in Wednesday’s print edition, and online at kilgorenewsherald.com.
Memorial Day is more than just another federal holiday where banks, city and county government and the like are closed.
According to history.com (and various other sites, actually), Memorial Day is a holiday designed to honor those who lost their lives while serving the U.S. in the military, and has been observed the last Monday of May each year since it became an actual national holiday in 1971.
It was once called Decoration Day.
Even though it wasn’t an actual national holiday until the early 70’s, roots of Memorial Day go all the way back at least until the late 1860’s, following the conclusion of the Civil War, when families began honoring their military relatives that had been killed in action.
In fact, Waterloo, N.Y. began celebrating Memorial Day back on May 5, 1866, a day that was selected because that’s when locals honored their military and decorated graves there. The U.S. government recognized Waterloo as the birthplace of Memorial Day about 100 years later.
To many, Memorial Day also marks the unofficial beginning of the summer season: some have cook-outs and use that time to spend with family.
And Kilgore, thanks to Edney and others, has long had a Memorial Day ceremony, and some large cities even take it one step further, holding parades (places like Chicago, New York City, and Washington, D.C.). Many still observe Memorial Day, fittingly, by visiting cemeteries and other monuments and memorial sites. Some wear a red poppy, a tradition that began with this World War I poem:
“In Flanders Fields” by John McCrae
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
Although the auto industry was labeled early as an essential business, many of the local car dealerships have been negatively affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.
“During the first month, with the shelter in place order, our traffic slowed down considerably,” said All Star Ford manager Paul Rowland.
Rowland said that due to the nature of the auto industry as a commission-based sales job, the dealership has lost six sales representatives due to the lapse in business.
“If they can’t make commission, they aren’t making any money and they have had to move elsewhere,” Rowland said.
He said that since the end of the shelter in place order, the dealership has seen a rise in traffic again.
Tim Capps, owner of Gabriel-Jordan Auto Group, said that the auto group, like most businesses, was negatively impacted by the virus outbreak.
“During the first month our sales were down by about 75 percent or more,” Capps said.
However, Capps said that they worked on a company-wide plan to focus on supporting the local communities, and retaining all of their employees.
The auto group has a location not only in Kilgore, but also in Tyler, Henderson and many others in East Texas.
“The virus has affected us in a million different ways, but we do not want to spend any more time focusing on the negative ways. It has made us a better dealership, we have become stronger and we have adapted for our customers,” Capps said.
Rowland said that the dealership is operating within city regulations, keeping social distancing and adding sanitation stations around the location.
Capps said the auto group is doing the same, following CDC best practices and keeping up to date on state and city orders.
“It’s all about working together and coming together to support our customers, our staff, and the people in the community who have been affected by this virus,” he said.
All Star Ford is also offering free car sanitation by appointment for the community.
“It does take a couple of hours but if someone wants their car sanitized, we are offering to do that free of charge,” Rowland said.
Rowland and Capps both said that the dealerships are also doing a lot of home delivers to help protect the public.
“Basically, we are just doing what we can and trying to make it,” Rowland said.
Capps said that he hopes to take the good fortune Gabriel-Jordan has had during this time and pay it forward within the community.
He said that it is through organizations such as the Kilgore Chamber of Commerce and other local businesses working together to support each other that is going to be the key to getting through the outbreak.
“At the end of this there are going to be a lot of businesses that are going to be very grateful, myself included, to the work and the resources the Chamber has offered during this time,” Capps said,
“We are strong here in East Texas, we are resilient, and we are strong. More than that, we’re just freakin’ Texans. We’re not scared of a virus. We aren’t scared of anything.”
The 25-county East Texas region saw a jump of 94 cases of the novel coronavirus on Thursday, due in large part to 61 newly reported cases in Titus County.
Other counties posting increases in positive test results included Gregg, Smith, Camp, Morris and Harrison, which also reported one more COVID-19 death Thursday.
Titus County recorded 59 new cases on Wednesday, followed by two new cases Thursday, according to County Judge Brian Lee said.
The county has has two deaths, according to the Texas State Department of Health Services.
Titus County became a Northeast Texas hot spot for COVID-19 a little more than a week ago — which surprised officials in the area where Mount Pleasant serves as county seat.
They expected the trend to begin earlier, Lee said.
The county logged its first case at the beginning of April, he said.
“We expected this to get started back then,” Lee said.
Case numbers didn’t started jumping until May, tied in part to the first free testing drive offered by the state on May 9 in Mount Pleasant.
Facebook posts Lee made showed that 40 cases on May 12 became 79 cases on May 13. Some days since then have showed jumps of 11, 17, 22 and Wednesday’s 59, ending at 220 cases as of Thursday.
Lee said the state’s totals for the county tend to lag behind what the county itself is able to count from positive test results.
More testing is taking place, Lee said, but that’s not the primary driver of the county’s increasing COVID-19 cases.
More people are sick, he said.
Lee said he and other officials he speaks with each day believe the increasing number of cases are connected to the county’s biggest employer, the Pilgrim’s chicken processing plant in Mount Pleasant where about 2,800 people work. But it’s not just Pilgrim’s, he said, because the area has other businesses with plant work environments.
“We knew whatever they had in force out there at the time (at Pilgrim’s),” delayed a larger outbreak in Titus County, Lee said. “What caused it to erupt here recently, we’ll never know.”
Lee said Pilgrim’s has worked to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among its employees.
“Despite the great job Pilgrim’s has been doing in staving this off for quite a while, I think it’s finally catching up,” he said, recalling a recent visit he made to the plant in which he saw all employees in masks and being screened for temperatures. Break rooms are closed.
The company sent its more vulnerable workers home with pay and has encouraged employees who aren’t feeling well to stay home, Lee said.
“A lot of those employees share residences with people that work in other plant environments in other locations in town,” he said.
He said Titus County’s population is more than 50 percent Latino.
“This is a tightknit social group,” he said.
Titus County, though, is an “industry-intensive community,” not just with Pilgrim’s, but with trailer and fence manufacturing, a chocolate plant and a nearby a Lowe’s distribution center.
“This is a Titus County problem,” he said of the number of COVID-19 cases that have developed there in the past couple of weeks. “It’s a manufacturing-related matter in many of these cases that we’ve been able to trace to.”
The state conducted voluntary on-site testing of Pilgrim’s employees at the plant earlier this week, but Lee said those results are not yet available.
Pilgrim’s corporate office, JBS in Greeley, Colorado, did not immediately respond to a phone message on Thursday.
A Facebook post by Titus Regional Medical Center showed it was treating 14 patients for COVID-19 as of Thursday.
Gregg County: In Gregg County, County Health Administrator A.J. Harris reported that three more people had received positive results for the virus, bringing the county’s total to 187 as of Thursday.
Harris said 1,904 total tests had been administered in the county as of Thursday, with 1,607 results returning negative and 109 results still pending.
The county’s recoveries stand at 57, and the it has had four deaths from the virus.
Gregg County Judge Bill Stoudt said the daily results show “our community spread is clearly going down.”
Recent spikes in the county’s totals were the results of cases inside nursing homes, he said.
“I think there’s a handle on everything,” Stoudt said.
The county has not yet received all the results from three days of drive-thru testing the state conducted in Longview last week.
Other counties: In Harrison County, County Judge Chad Sims said the new death brings his county’s death toll to 23.
Sims also reported five new COVID-19 cases, raising the cumulative total for the county to 228. In addition, the county recorded 21 new recoveries, increasing that total to 60. The county now has 145 active cases.
He said 17 of the recoveries were from patients over 60 years old.
“This is great news that many in our older age group are overcoming the virus,” he said. “Please continue to join me in remembering all of these affected.”
In Smith County, coronavirus cases increased by three, pulling that county’s total up to 198, according to the Northeast Texas Public Health District.
The county has had 142 recoveries and now has 52 active cases. It has had four deaths.
Tyler hospitals on Thursday were treating 23 patients from East Texas for the coronavirus.
In Camp County, the number of positive cases rose by three for a total of 32, according to the state health department.
In Morris County, County Judge Doug Reeder posted one new case, raising that county’s total to 15. Reeder said the county’s total has risen by six in the past eight days. It has had five recoveries.
“Many of these are due to increased testing not only in Morris County, but in adjacent counties as well,” he said.
Across the 25-county region, the number of recorded COVID-19 cases was at least 2,349 by Thursday evening, up from 2,255 a day earlier. The region reported 108 total deaths as of Thursday, one more from Wednesday.
“Do things with style, or don’t bother doing them.”
- Me, as 17-year-old Mitch, back in my senior-year yearbook for 1988. Since then, by the way, I’ve decided that humility, accuracy, politeness and intelligence should probably be considered, as well.
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GRADUATION ACTIVITIES are everywhere in the coming weeks, scattered a bit thanks to all the coronavirus mess.
Kilgore High School’s graduation will be Friday, June 19; Sabine’s official graduation will be Saturday, June 6, at 10 a.m. at R.E. St. John Memorial Stadium in Kilgore (although they do have a virtual graduation at 4 p.m. today online… see below).
West Rusk’s graduation will be next Friday, May 29, at 8 p.m. at Bruce Bradshaw Stadium on campus.
Overton High School seniors graduate on campus at Coach Chester Roy Stadium next Friday, May 29, at 7:30. There are guidelines: Each senior will receive five tickets, and seating for each family will be determined by lottery. The graduation ceremony will be streamed live online; pictures will be taken and those also will be online.
There are other conditions as well; students and parents with questions are encouraged to call Overton ISD.
Sabine High School’s virtual graduation is today at 4 p.m., from LeTourneau University in Longview. You may watch it online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2gzxOg_P0v8&feature=youtu.be&fbclid=IwAR110DV719IMLKTbMjGb9Bxgv5Ug-7PUgHRO7O3N-C9J9_AuJDwU8twNeGw
Leverett's Chapel's graduation will be Friday night, June 12, at 8 p.m. at the LC stadium. LC will follow recommendations set by TEA, as far as social distancing guidelines.
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SOME OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS of note, courtesy of KHS…
Carter Clark recently received the Steven Murphy Reeves Memorial Scholarship of $1,000.
Kaden Clark, Mallory Cook, Alicia Jones and Kaden Thrower were all announced as receiving scholarships from the Kilgore Rotary Club in the amount of $1,000 each.
Karson Offerding received the Samantha Watkins Memorial Scholarship, in the amount of $1,000.
Spencer Thompson received the Russell Bickley Scholarship in the amount of $1,000.
Lauren Couch ($1,750), Mackenzie Harrison ($750), Carlie Massey ($750), Jayce McFarland ($750), Karson Offerding ($750), Spencer Thompson ($750), and Josh Young ($750) all received scholarships from Rusk County Electric.
Yearbooks for the 2019-20 school year at KHS will be on sale for $55 each, beginning July 8. It will include coverage of the June 19 graduation.
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THIS ANNOUNCEMENT FROM the Rock Springs Cemetery Association Board…
In today’s health crisis, Rock Springs Cemetery Association Board has made the difficult decision to not host our usual day of shared meal, fellowship and special attention to the final resting place of our loved ones. Some families may choose to gather, as usual, but there will be no formal meeting, no shared meals, no provided beverage, etc.
However, this is also the only time of the year that we solicit love offerings/donations that support the ongoing upkeep of our cemetery. We urge you to mail your tax-deductible donations to:
Association Treasurer Tammy Trotter, 2896 CR 192E, Kilgore, TX,75662
Association president Charlie Walker and secretary Vickie Raymond both have PayPal accounts, if you prefer that method of payment. Contact information for either, and a summary of the annual financial report, can be found on the association ‘s Facebook page, Rock Spring Cemetery.