Honoring our veterans

Trio of county celebrations pay tribute to veterans

Photo with no caption
By Lance Coleman
Senior reporter
Blount Today

Military personal past and present were honored throughout Blount County recently during Veteran’s Day celebrations at William Blount High School, the Heritage Center and the Blount County Courthouse.

During the ceremonies at William Blount High School on Friday, Nov. 10, veterans and current members of the military from throughout Blount County were seated on the gym floor while student singers and musicians performed in their honor. Chief Master Sgt. David "Daddy" Brown, United States Air Force, addressed the students. Brown served in the military from 1948 to 1977 and was in the Vietnam War in 1968 and 1969 where he received the bronze star. He has been a teacher’s assistant at the school for 25 years.

When his name was called during a roll call of veterans, the student section cheered, and he showed his affection for his students when he began his speech. "You know, this is the first time in 25 years I have all 800 kids in one classroom," he said.

Brown told the students about serving in the armed forces in Turkey and how he was asked to speak to some college students on the subject of the United States becoming a world power in less than 200 years. Brown said he told the students that it was because the people of the country are united. Pulling out an American $1 bill, Brown said he also told them that there was a greater reason.

"Each bill says we’re united," he said. "But there’s a greater reason than that - in God we trust. They accepted that whole-heartedly. I felt good. I knew I was speaking for all of us."

Brown then shared stories about the traditions related to the military. He explained that the 21 gun salute was the sum of the numbers in 1776, the year of the Declaration of Independence. He also explained the origins of the song, "Taps," telling the students That the bugle call was used when a Northern officer in the Civil War buried his son, who was a Confederate soldier and music student. "He asked permission for a bugler to play the song his song wrote."

Brown said he was encouraged by the students at William Blount High School. "Students, that’s our message to you. We pass our torch," he said. "I look at you, I see our future. I’m not worried."

William Blount High School JROTC Cadet Col. Nikki Breeden is group commander and explained that the group spends a good deal of time on the event.

"We normally spend two and a half weeks preparing for this," he said. "We practice during (JROTC) class and we also practice before and after school," she said.

At the court house

The United Veterans of Blount County hosted a program with a standing room only crowd in the commission room of the Blount County Courthouse on Saturday morning, Pearl Harbor survivor Durwood B. Swanson spoke to the crowd, telling of the numbers military personnel wounded or killed in action when the attack on Pearl Harbor began..

Charles Ratledge said Swanson was a motorcycle patrolman at Hickam Air Field when the attack started. "He laid down his motorcycle and crawled under a car when a bomber strafed the field," Ratledge said.

Swanson said the U.S.S. Arizona, the U.S.S. Oklahoma and the U.S.S. Utah were sunk. "I saw this big cloud and didn’t know what it was," he said of an explosion he saw the morning of the attack. "It was the Arizona."

Phil Malch of Maryville said he served 41 years in the military, both in the Navy reserve and the Army National Guard. "This is a special day for those like myself called to serve and who were lucky enough to come back," he said.

County Mayor and U.S. Marine veteran Jerry Cunningham said people should remember Veteran’s Day. "It is so important the younger generation doesn’t forget the sacrifices of all these veterans, what they did and what they gave," he said.

Navy veteran Bob Hurm of Maryville said while the people present at the program were showing their patriotism, more could be done to honor vets. Jesse R. Fussell of Maryville said it appeared more were starting to remember the holiday. "I think locally we could do more to remember Veteran’s Day. The last few years, we’ve had more and more (people at the
celebration)," he said. "People are remembering. It’s great to see them pause and honor vets."

In Townsend
At the Heritage Center in Townsend, the Veterans Honor Garden was dedicated on Saturday, Nov. 11. The garden was created to honor soldiers who have served or are currently serving the U.S. Veterans’ names are engraved on the face of
Tennessee marble boulders that are placed in the gardens.

The dedication began with an invocation by Commander Ken Abbott, U.S. Navy. Presentation of the colors and national anthem was led by the U.S.M.C. Color Guard, Delta Company, Combat Engineer Detachment.

Marine Corp Lt. General R.A. Tiebout (Ret.) was the keynote speaker at the garden dedication. A medley of service hymns, performed by the Air National Guard Band of the McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base, preceded the benediction by Lt. Col. Ron Matthews, U.S. Air Force.

All photos by Darrell Watkins

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