HALLSVILLE — Veterans, law enforcement, other first responders and elected officials were all honored for their service on Tuesday during the Hallsville Chamber of Commerce’s annual Veterans Day and First Responders Dinner, hosted at the First Baptist Church of Hallsville.

More than 100 attended the annual dinner on Tuesday, including several Harrison and Gregg County area officials, law enforcement personnel and veterans, including Gregg County Justice of the Peace Tim Bryan, Harrison County Judges Brad Morrin and Joe Black, Hallsville Police Chief Wesley Freeman and police, Harrison County Sheriff B.J. Fletcher and deputies, CHRISTUS Health EMS personnel, Harrison County District Attorney Reid McCain, Harrison County Commissioner William Hatfield, U.S. military veterans and more.

The Hallsville ISD Jazz Cats Band provided entertainment for the evening and Bear Creek Smokehouse catered the dinner.

The crowd recognized World War II Veteran and Hallsville resident Raymond Fleming during Tuesday’s dinner. Fleming served in the U.S. Army from 1943-46.

Hallsville Chamber of Commerce President Chris Comer, who is an U.S. Air Force veteran who served in the Iraq War, served as the dinner’s guest speaker. Comer spoke Tuesday of the aftermath of 9/11 which saw him heading to Iraq to begin the U.S. military’s Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Comer described how his crews, where he served as Captain upon his honorable discharge from the Air Force, were the first to begin the fight in the Iraq war and they took to the skies to begin the “shock and awe” campaign then President George W. Bush described to Americans.

Comer said as the years pass on from 9/11 and the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, as well as other wars, it’s important for veterans to continue to share their stories of sacrifice for their country and it’s important citizens listen and continue to appreciate and defend those freedoms.

“To citizens who haven’t served, don’t repeat the mistakes of the past,” Comer said. “Hold our government accountable. Honor our country. We’re not perfect, but I don’t know a country that is. Respect your country. Stand for the flag. Honor the people who have sacrificed.”

Comer also encouraged guests to support veterans.

“Veteran suicide is at an all time high,” he said. “We have to support each other. Let’s support each other and hold each other up. And most importantly to our veterans, share your stories. Utility workers, firefighters, law enforcement, share your stories so people know freedom has a cost.”

Comer then charged the elected officials to continue to protect that freedom.

“Don’t let them come and take what we fought for,” he said. “Protect our republic. Protect us from the government if needed.”

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