As the country mourns,Vets Serving Vets held a memorial service Wednesday — to honor the five service members killed in last week’s shooting in Chattanooga, Tenn.
“Look around the country right now,” said Vets Serving Vets Commander Doug Bayless. “Veterans are at every recruiting station — armed, sitting there to protect their brothers. Those are veterans, those are patriots. There is nothing for us to do around here other than sit around and be mad, so that’s why we are doing this.”
Veterans and members of the public gathered in Middlesboro City Park to honor the lives lost and the service to their country after heavily armed shooter, Mohamad Youssef Abdulazeez first attacked a military recruiting center, shooting through the office’s front door from his car, injuring no one. He then drove to a Navy operations support center for another attack, killing four marines and a sailor.
Abdulazeez forced his way into the Navy building and killed one service member. He exited through the back of the building and fatally shot four more. Abdulazeez was killed by Chattanooga law enforcement. The whole episode lasted no more than five minutes. Officials are treating this senseless act of violence as an act of domestic terrorism.
“Terrorism in America is relatively new,” said Vets Serving Vets member and retired Staff Sgt. Scott Marlow. “It’s been going on overseas for 30 or 40 years and many of us have experienced that firsthand. They have riled up three million U.S. veterans and that is the long and short of it.”
Bayless concurred, adding “People forget things too easy. Right now the public is upset about this, but the first big news story that happens a week or so from now — a tornado comes through somewhere or whatever and that’s all they will be talking about. They will forget about our five brothers murdered by some coward in Chattanooga. We are not going to forget.”
The five casualties:
*Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Randall Smith was a logistics specialist. He saw the gunman and was able to warn others. Smith was fatally wounded during the attack and died from his wounds a few days later;
*Marine Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan was a two-time Purple Heart recipient. He served three tours of duty;
*Lance Cpl. Squire K. “Skip” Wells joined the Marines in 2014 and was a recipient of a National Defense Service Medal;
*Marine Sgt. Carson Holmquist served two tours of duty in Afghanistan;
*Marine Staff Sgt. David Wyatt served two tours of duty in Iraq and one in Afghanistan.
Pastor Micheal Padgett of Middlesboro Church Of God Mountain Assembly officiated and opened the service with a prayer. Vets Serving Vets members, retired Sgt. Major Chris Jackson, and retired Capt. Chad Shannon, were guest speakers. The memorial closed with a moment of silence and Taps was played.
Reach William Tribell at 606 302-9100 or on Twitter @wtribellmdn