The Tyler Area Senior Citizen Association (TASCA), 10495 Jim Russell Road, dedicated its Veterans Memorial, which honors East Texans for their service.
Billie Gordon with TASCA said the idea for some type of monument came about a year and a half ago as the group was building its current location, but the idea evolved and changed to incorporate several different ideas.
Ms. Gordon said the monument would exist without the dedication of two Boy Scouts from Whitehouse Troop 359, who raised funds and constructed the monument.
She said Joseph Mohr read a newspaper article and took on the project to help earn the rank of Eagle Scout. Mohr fundraised, designed and helped install the concrete monument in front of the entrance to the TASCA building.
Scott Kilgo then worked on a second project to install the flag pole behind the monument and dug a ditch for underground wiring for lights so the flag can be flown year-round.
“We were so happy to have the Boy Scouts,” Ms. Gordon said after the program. “It's very seldom we get young people and seniors working together on something that means so much to us all. We feel so fortunate to have them involved.”
About 130 plaques with the name, rank and branch of service of East Texans rest on the monument.
“We are here to celebrate names on a wall, but we all know there is so much more than those names — the memories those names will always evoke in us, our thanks to our veterans, the pride we will always have as Americans, the happiness and freedom we are so fortunate to have,” Ms. Gordon said.
On Jan. 12, 1942, McLeroy and Lt. Robert L. Thienes were among eight on a mission to attack shipping vessels in Saigon.
Thienes was struck by a single bullet, an inch in diameter and half an inch thick. The bullet drove two inches into his skull, but Thienes was able to fly 250 miles and land safely on an aircraft carrier through periods of unconsciousness and loss of vision.
McLeroy noticed his comrade was not with them on the mission and flew back to find him.
McLeroy flew side-by-side with Thienes, radioing for help, and trying to keep Thienes calm. McLeroy convinced him to wait to land on the carrier instead of making an emergency water landing, believing he couldn't take any more trauma.
Thienes landed safely and regained his vision slowly after weeks in the hospital. Three people read original poems for their family members and in honor of the event, the TASCA Triple Steppers performed patriotic line dancing, and the Korean Veterans Association presented a tribute for prisoners of war and those missing or killed in action.
“We and many other millions of Americans thank you”' Gordon said. “A special thanks is also in order (for) the spouses, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and friends of all the veterans, those living and those who have passed on. These are the people who sat home and cared about you, worried about you and waited for you, missing you while you were gone and not knowing when or if you would come home.”