An exhibit inside Denton's Golden Triangle Mall has become a meeting place, of sorts, for old war stories. The display is part of a push to honor all Texas veterans.
"Is it going pretty good?" asked Fred Pursur, as he discussed efforts to establish a Texas Veterans Hall of Fame. The answer he received from Gary Steele, a resounding "Yes."
Purser, 95, of Hebron, is a veteran of both World War II and the Korean War who was shopping at the mall when the display caught his interest. Steele, a Vietnam veteran who served 21 years in the armed forces, is spearheading the push to establish the hall of fame.
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"We want to tell our stories and remind the public of our sacrifices," Steele said. "And, freedom's not free."
Steele said the effort began about three years ago when he realized that many younger people -- and even some older ones -- didn't fully realize the role of Texas military members in protecting and serving the country. He was also surprised to learn that Texas was one of the few states without a statewide hall of fame to honor that individual service and sacrifice.
"I just have that passion to take care of our veterans because the military has been good to me and my family," he said. "It's just part of the blood, I guess you might say."
An estimated 1.8 million Texans have served in the military. With the traveling exhibit, hall of fame organizers are drumming up interest by sharing their vision with anyone willing to listen. They're also collecting donations for a permanent museum site -- which they said would be located in Denton County -- and preferably in the city of Denton, although they're not sure exactly how much they'll need.
“I would say if you gave $1 for every veteran, I'd take your $1.8 million and we'll see what we get," Steele said.
With a goal of opening a temporary site, at least, by 2020 -- Steele said the hall of fame will honor all Texas veterans, living and deceased -- through their own personal stories.
"Our motto is never again will one generation abandon another," he said. "And that's what keeps us going."