They were brave East Texas students who gave their lives fighting for our freedom in Vietnam. Tuesday, those 8 former Robert E. Lee students were honored by faculty, students, and veterans. KLTV 7's Courtney Lane shows us how their legacies are now forever engraved in the heart of their beloved high school.
Hands over their hearts, and while flags waved above to patriotic music, hundreds gathered Tuesday, both current Lee students and alumni, to pay tribute to 8 of their own heroes, all fallen on the front lines in Vietnam.
The names were read aloud:
William David Bothwell, U.S. Army
Gary Vaughn Clark, U.S. Army
Tony Wayne Collier, U.S. Army
Charles T. Courson, U.S. Marine Corp
Frederick William Fritts, U.S. Army
Doyce Gene Miller, U.S. Marine Corp
Lawrence Hamilton Moore, U.S. Marine Corp
Harry Diwain Spier, U.S. Army
Current students may not have known them, but now they'll never be forgotten, since their names were etched in a permanent memorial.
"They walked these same sidewalks, they attended class in the same classrooms," said Lee graduate of 1968, Retired Lt. Col. Bill Bowers. "They shared the same hopes and dreams that many of you have here today. But these honored 8 gave up their tomorrows so we could have ours to search for our dreams."
Elmer Austin, Jr. remembered when the memorial was completed in 1968.
"They wanted it to represent the four branches of the service," said Austin. "The Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines. So that's the purpose of the four wings."
Robert E. Lee Student Councils of 1966 - 1968 raised money to fund the memorial. Austin helped design it - and helped to build it with his own hands.
"You really can't say what it mean, it's inside you that matters," said Austin. "We admired all those people and knew most of them. It was an honor to do it."
And now, thanks to their efforts more than 30 years ago, this sacred spot in the center courtyard is preserved for those who give the ultimate sacrifice, never to be forgotten.
Speakers at Tuesday's ceremony told students to enjoy the day off this upcoming Memorial Day, but also encouraged them to remember what it stands for - and that we owe our freedom to all of our military men and women.