The men and women serving America in the armed forces today aren’t bothered by politics, Dr. Larry Gilbert says: they have their mission.

“By the time you get to what you have to do, you’re not worried about politics. As matter of fact, that’s the last thing on your mind,” he said Monday. “You’re worried about your teammates and who’s in the foxhole with you.”

Back in East Texas for the Kilgore War Veterans Association’s annual Memorial Day observance, Gilbert asked a robust crowd gathered at the Harris Street Park War Veterans Monument to remember those who gave their lives serving their country and to keep in mind, always, those who continue to serve.

Serving two years in Vietnam in the the Draft years, Gilbert said “I really admire the people now and what they do because they volunteer to do what they do. Our men and women, they need our support … As long as we have some real Gospel-believing people, people who will fight for our country, we will be OK.”

Organized by John Edney and Joe Parker, Monday morning’s patriotic entertainment included a group of the Sweet Adelines singers as well as a solo from Parker. Kilgore Police Department Evidence Officer Angela Burch performed “Taps” to close the service while members of the Kilgore Fire Department acted as the day’s Color Guard.

“I think we need to have a round of applause for Joe and John continuing this great event every year in the City of Kilgore,” Kilgore Mayor Ronnie Spradlin said. “You know, Kilgore does things that other cities don’t do. I’m so proud of our community.”

Kilgore does it up right, Gilbert agreed.

“They always talk about Kilgore as a little town, but it does things in a big way. It’s so great to be back among home folks – once you leave Kilgore, you don’t lose that love for this city.”

A Kilgore native, Gilbert graduated Kilgore High School and went on to Texas Tech University. Later, he graduated from the United States Air Force Officer Training School, commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant, in 1970. He served two tours in Vietnam as an aircraft commander, earning the Air Medal for combat before an honorable discharge at the rank of captain in 1976.

Today, Gilbert is dean of instruction on the Corinth campus of North Central Texas College.

“How well do you handle pressure? Do you innovate?” he asked Monday’s crowd. “When the pressure is on, what type of teammate are you? How well do you prioritize and execute when the heat is on? Do you make decisions based on what is best for the mission or the project you’re working on or for what is best for you?

“When you join the military, men and women, those questions come up to you real soon. You want to have good teammates, and you want to be a great teammate.”

There are about 25 million living American veterans, Gilbert noted.

“Since General George Washington commanded the Continental Army, 42 million have served.

Think about that. Think about our history,” he said. “There are a million-and-a-half Americans that have died for our country. There’s over a half-million that remain missing, POWs.

“We need to remember veterans on Memorial Day. It’s not to have a picnic. It’s not to go to the lake. It’s not to have a sale. It’s to honor our people who died for us.”

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