Kilgore honored military veterans and service members, including those who gave their lives in service of their country, at a Memorial Day service held Monday morning at the Veterans Monument at Harris Street Park.
A large crowd of veterans, friends family and supporters gathered at the memorial, as they do every year, to pay tribute to U.S. military service men and women who died in the midst of their service.
Mitzi Hartfiel performed several patriotic songs, and U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Bradley Clark was the speaker for the event.
Clark quoted John 15:13, "Greater love hath no man than this: that a man lay down his life for his friend."
He went on to describe the blood shed by U.S. military service men and women in the line of duty, the ultimate sacrifice for the safety and freedom of all U.S. citizens.
"Why are we here today?" he asked the assembled crowd. "Memorial Day is about the remembrance of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice with their lives, serving and fighting for our great country. Rest in peace to all the men and women who paid with their lives so we may be in the land of the free."
He gestured to an empty chair placed before the podium in front of the Veterans Monument, signifying all the men and women who could not be at the ceremony because they had made the ultimate sacrifice. He encouraged all in attendance to, as they went about their plans for Memorial Day, to think about the empty chair and the immense sacrifice it represents.
"It is not about the barbecues or the sales on TV on Memorial Day. We live our lives the way we do because of their sacrifice."
He went on to describe the number of American soldiers who had lost their lives in the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Spanish-American War, Civil War, World War I, World War II, Vietnam War, Korean War, the Gulf War, the War on Terror and all other U.S. military engagements. The total adds up to a grim and stark figure: 1,366,765 dead military service members.
"They died defending the freedom you have today," Clark said. "The freedom to preach, to sing, to talk. If we're not careful, that freedom will slip away from us."
Clark closed his remarks by issuing challenges to all those in attendance.
"Don't let the history of the past be forgotten," he said, noting in some other countries, governments expunge periods of their own past.
"I urge you to never forget what this day is about: the fallen heroes of this country."
Kilgore Fire Department Honor Guard presented and retired the flags at the ceremony, and Kilgore Police Department Investigator Angela Burch played "Taps."