LUFKIN, TX (KTRE)-In the aftermath of the E-F3 tornado devastating parts of Lufkin, one local landmark was nearly wiped off the map.
Little is left of the VFW post in Lufkin and since the storm, hundreds of people arrived to help salvage records and valuables, scattered across 30 acres of property.
The winds were fierce, reported at close to 140 mph. The tornado's width, close to three football fields wide, ripped through parts of Lufkin.
The tornado traveled roughly four miles, devastating several homes and businesses. A significant landmark for more than 70 years, the local VFW post is now gone.
"I'm a grown man, but I cry. Vets, we cry. And stuff like this, it breaks our hearts. But we'll get through this," said Gulf War Veteran Carl Zylstra.
He is one of many who spent his entire Christmas helping to salvage important records and valuables.
"I feel that I need to be here. For me, the military has been such a big thing in my life," said Zylstra.
Many sacred items filled with memories, are lost within the debris.
"Records, mostly, some of the history and some of the pictures and plaques that we've won through the years," said long time member Jack Green.
Ten thousand dollars worth of tile work paid for on the day of the storm, is also scattered across the field.
Vets say it's impossible to put a price on their loss.
It's very emotional for Vietnam Veteran John R. Black.
"It's just something I really can't describe."
Vets and family members came to see if their blocks remain standing. Some can't find there's.
"Well I hope it's still in one piece," said Black.
Members are out reassuring people that the damage will be repaired.
"Any blocks that got damaged, we will replace," said Zylstra.
All are hoping cleanup can start soon, so the VFW can continue to serve the community.
"We won't have any money to help with the agencies in the County until we get back up and running," said Green.
All though heartbroken with loss, these men and women are thankful to be alive.
"If we'd been playing bingo, it would have really been bad," said Michael Daniel.
Members and organizers are waiting for their insurance agent to come to the site, so they can assess the damage and begin the cleanup process.
For now, security is closely monitoring the area to make sure remaining items do not get taken, or further damaged.
To make donations and help with recovery efforts, you can mail contributions to:
VETERANS OF FOREIGN WARS OF THE U.S.
LUFKIN POST NO. 1836
P.O. Box 393
Lufkin, Texas 75902-0393
Members and helpers say they appreciate all of the support coming from the community and hope people will continue to extend their support once they begin clean up.
At this time, all salvaged items have been taken to the VFW Post in Diboll to be stored temporarily.