Veterans Day was marked in Kilgore Thursday at Harris Street Park with patriotic songs and speeches honoring those who served in the U.S. armed forces.

The ceremony was held at the Veterans Memorial and began by honoring local students who exhibit academic excellence, good conduct and patriotism.

Patti Cunyus, of the local Samuel Paul Dinkins chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, said the DAR Good Citizens Program and scholarship contest is intended to encourage and reward the qualities of good citizenship.

Carolyn Martin, Samuel Paul Dinkins chapter committee chair presented the awards to three high school seniors, chosen by their respective schools to receive the honor: Kilgore High School’s Cason Cox, Sabine High School’s Harlie Bynum and West Rusk High School’s Paulina Mata.

Following the awards presentation, Kilgore Veterans Association committee chairman and Vietnam veteran John Edney welcomed attendees and asked them to reflect on the sacrifices veterans have made for our country.

“Without them, where would we be?” he asked.

“Veterans have fought for us, died for us, so we want to remember them today.”

Mayor Ronnie Spradlin introduced the event’s speaker, Julie Brogoitti Woods, owner of Julie Woods & Associates Real Estate.

Woods said Edney had asked her to speak on experiencing Veterans Day from a woman’s perspective and she had conversations with her 96-year-old grandmother to learn more about her experiences.

“She was 16 when World War II began,” Woods said.

“She remembers many of her 17-year-old classmates lying about their ages so that they could go into the war, including my grandfather. She recalled that the war wasn’t over until she was about 21 years old. During those five years, she hardly saw any boys anywhere around town. None were in her high school classes or her college classes. That’s something that’s hard for me to imagine. She told me that she and all her friends wrote letters to their classmates overseas and, of course, she lost some of her friends. One time she received a letter back from a classmate that had already passed away.”

Woods said she learned of the importance of honoring veterans through hearing about the experiences of her grandparents but also in the lives of her friends.

“When I think of veterans I always think, of course, first of my grandfather, who didn’t often want to speak about the war, but I also think about my dear friend Eli. He was injured by an RPG as a 22-year-old while he served in Afghanistan,” she said.

Her friend had to crawl to safety while badly injured and endured dozens of operations and years in the hospital before recovering and beginning a new career as a personal trainer.

Woods said she asked him how he made it through such a difficult experience.

“It’s what you do. You just get up and keep going.”

“I bet many of you here today can relate to that. It’s what you do. You just get up and keep going. You veterans are something else, a different breed, the ones that put others before yourselves. You love your country. You love people you don’t even know and you fight for them to have their own opinion, even if it’s different from your own. You see trouble and you run into instead of running away from it. You’re the very fabric of our country, the best part of it, and I’m so thankful that people like you exist in this world.”

Kilgore Fire Department Honor Guard presented and retired the colors at the event and Kilgore Police Department Officer Angela Burch played “Taps.” The national anthem was performed by the Kilgore College Rangerettes.

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