Community to honor church attack victims on Veterans Day

A woman visits a makeshift memorial along the highway for the victims of the church shooting at Sutherland Springs Baptist Church, Friday, Nov. 10, 2017, in Sutherland Springs, Texas. (AP)

SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, Texas (AP) — Veterans Day has special meaning this year in the small South Texas community where a church massacre occurred last weekend. Nearly half of the victims had ties to the U.S. Air Force.

The church attack victims with military backgrounds will receive a full military salute Saturday on the grounds of the community hall in Sutherland Springs as Veterans Day is observed, said Alice Garcia, president of the Sutherland Springs Community Association.

Her husband and the association’s vice president, Oscar Garcia, said they want to “honor those that have fallen, people killed in a moment after putting in years of military service.” Speakers will include U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar.

Devin Patrick Kelley killed more than two dozen people in a shooting Nov. 5 at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs. Kelley died of what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound after the massacre.

Kelley had ties to the Air Force as well. The former airman was given a bad conduct discharge after pleading guilty to assaulting his then-wife and her son.

The Air Force chief of staff, Gen. David Goldfein, has said that 12 of those killed at the church had direct connections to the Air Force, “either members or with family ties.”

That includes a couple who had decided to retire in nearby La Vernia after meeting when they were in the service together more than 30 years ago. On Thursday a military funeral was held for Scott and Karen Marshall, both 56, at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph.

Kelley shot and killed 25 people at the church. Authorities have put the official toll at 26, because one of the victims was pregnant.