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Singing for the veterans

Times Record - 1/17/2020

Jan. 17--She's an area teenager who harbors the maturity and generosity of a role-model adult, according to one individual.

Gabrielle Gore, a 16-year-old resident of Muldrow, recently raised $2,000 for the Christmas Honors Program, a patriotic-based, wreath-laying ceremony that honors veterans and their families each December at U.S. National Cemetery. Gore's donation is a "much-needed gift," said Philip H. Merry Jr., chairman and founder for the Christmas Honors event.

"Gabrielle is an incredible help to our mission of paying respect and remembrance to the veterans and their families who shared them," he said. "Gabrielle just turned 16, and she's been singing the National Anthem at our annual Christmas Honors service for several years. She works for donations, sings for our guests and veterans in the mission, and helps work the equipment for the wreath workshop events."

Gore, who is the daughter of Monica and Gene Gore of Muldrow and has appeared in numerous plays, concerts and other entertainment-based events in the Fort Smith area, raised the money for Christmas Honors by writing and directing the recent "Holidays for Heroes" production. "Holidays for Heroes" was staged at the King Opera House in Van Buren and acted as a tribute to veterans.

"I was so honored to have been joined onstage by some incredible performers -- Mr. Tad Rhodes from Muldrow; Miss Turner Tecmire from Fort Smith; Mrs. Thesa Loving from Sallisaw ... and the Sallisaw Middle School Choir," said Gore, whose awards and titles include Miss Oklahoma City's Outstanding Teen, among others. "We never expected to bring in as many donations as we did, but that just goes to show how supportive our community is of our veterans and Christmas Honors."

A portion of the funds raised from "Holidays for Heroes" will go to purchase new wreaths and bows for the 2020 Christmas Honors ceremony, while another portion of the money will go to help with the cost of the land expansion of the cemetery, Gore said.

"We are letting people know that in seven to 10 years, our cemetery will fill up, so we are embarking upon a land-expansion, fundraising effort," Merry said. "The Phelps family owns the 9 1/2 acres of land southwest of the cemetery, and we hope to buy that land and present it to the government and the Veterans Administration to the cemetery can expand.

"If we get that land, we will ensure that veteran burials will continue to happen in Fort Smith for the next 100 years," he added. "We're needing to raise $6 million for the land ... and we are needing to act quickly. Little Rock is now full and yet we bury their dead here, because Little Rock didn't act quick enough."

The land next to National Cemetery is valued "at about $9.6 million," but Phelps family members have "generously agreed" to a $6 million selling price, Merry said.

Monica Gore praised her daughter's support, concern and passion for veterans.

"We have all branches of the U.S. Service in our family, and Gabrielle is truly committed to helping veterans in (Arkansas and Oklahoma)," she said. "Gabrielle has raised money for training and technology equipment to help veterans market themselves when returning to civilian life, and she has entertained and raised funds for veterans to socialize and connect.

"And she's helped raise money for building improvements in both Arkansas and Oklahoma," Monica added.

Set to compete in the Miss Oklahoma's Outstanding Teen competition in June, Gabrielle also spends "countless hours" at local nursing homes, sharing her music for veterans and the elderly as a way of musical therapy, she said.

"Gabrielle is a very special young lady and believes music is therapy to our soul," Monica said. "The Christmas Honors program is extremely important to her."

Gabrielle said she plans on continuing her support of the Christmas Honors event and military veterans in general.

"We are planning to make 'Holidays for Heroes' an annual event," she said. "If you weren't able to make it (last month), please be sure to keep an eye out for details regarding the 2020 'Holidays for Heroes' tribute."

Merry described Gabrielle as a person with an impressive heart, far-reaching talent and studious nature in AP class-oriented subjects.

"This young lady has a dream to be on Broadway in New York City, and our Christmas Honors team is totally behind her," he said of Gabrielle. "We appreciate her. We know she's going to make it. We also know in our hearts that when Gabrielle does make it, she'll never forget where she's from, and she'll never stop supporting the veterans of our country."

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