Mike Mosley, who served in the U.S. Marines during the Gulf War, said nothing would have stopped veterans from gathering on Memorial Day, not bad weather and not social distancing requirements because of COVID-19.

“History forgotten is history repeated,” he said. “If we don’t remember and honor where we came from, we’re going to do it again, and we don’t want that. We would have got together any way. Social distance or whatever we had to do, we would have done it.”

About 40 veterans, their families and community members gathered at the U.S. Veterans Monument at Harris Street Park in Kilgore on a cloudy Monday morning for Memorial Day.

James Collins, who served in Vietnam as a Marine, said he would have served 30 years if it had not been for his injury.

“We need this right now,” he said. “The camaraderie and everyone getting together in one place to keep us free and keep us safe.”

Chairman of the Veterans Monument Committee-Kilgore and U.S. Army-Air Force Vietnam veteran John Edney said even in the light rain, it is important to honor veterans on Memorial Day every year.

“We want to remember and honor those veterans and those soldiers who gave their lives for our freedom so that we can stand here today to remember them,” he said.

During the ceremony, U.S. Army veteran Skip Beal, who served in Vietnam, read from a book of prayer devotionals for veterans.

One of the stories from the book he read was about a Vietnam veteran who was awarded a Congressional Medal of Honor posthumously.

“You know, when I went to Vietnam I didn’t think about winning medals,” Beal said. “I didn’t think about anything but going home.”

Beal also read a letter in the book from a veteran who died before the letter got to his family, and Beal reflected on his own last day in Vietnam.

“The night before I went into my final operation before I was wounded over there, I had a sense that I wasn’t going to come back,” he said. “I gave my money and my mom and dad’s address to a dear friend who was a Japanese soldier. I told him, ‘I don’t think I’m coming back,’ and he says, ‘Oh, you’ll be back.”

The next day at around noon, Beal said that during lunch, shooting suddenly began. His lung was punctured and later collapsed.

“I don’t remember anything except the chopper coming in and picking me out,” Beal said. “And I thank God for those chopper pilots. I do.”