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Johnson County honors local veterans

The Johnson County Courthouse has permanent memorials on its lawn honoring soldiers and first responders. Decorations are added to the lawn each patriotic holiday. Photos by Meg Dickens

By Meg Dickens

The Tomahawk’s In Honor, In Memory special edition, pays tribute to local heroes from the past and present. Johnson County and the surrounding areas are dotted with memorials and programs dedicated to the cause. A few of these include the Johnson County Veterans Memorial Wall, the Johnson County Courthouse monuments, Butler Museum’s American Veterans Memorial Walk, and Damascus’ Wheel of Freedom Veterans Memorial.

Patriotic Holidays
There are many holidays focused on memorializing these heroes, including the upcoming Independence Day. Veterans Day, Memorial Day, and Independence Day are frequently confused with each other. Gaining a better understanding can help locals celebrate to the fullest.
There is no affiliation with the military on Independence Day despite misconceptions. Gun salutes affiliated with this holiday represent the Thirteen Colonies and celebrate America’s break from England. Memorial Day and Veterans Day are very similar. The main dividing factor has to do with the focus. Memorial Day celebrates passed soldiers while Veterans Day celebrates both living and dead soldiers.

Ralph Stout Park holds the Johnson County Memorial Wall along with other monuments memorializing local veterans. Wayne Stegall, Worley Hall, and many more are honored at this site. American Legion Post 61 honored Glenda Smith on May 25, 2009, for her efforts to bring this memorial to life.
American Veterans Memorial Walk for Veterans of All Wars is a walkway made from individual bricks purchased by the public. Each brick is engraved in honor or in memory of any veteran. Interested parties can find this memorial across from the Butler Museum.
The Damascus Wheel of Freedom has five “spokes” representing different branches of the military. They all meet in the center where the American flag and military flags fly. This monument also has a POW and MIA chair set aside. Find
it at the Damascus Town Park.
The monuments at the Johnson County Courthouse honor locals lost in the armed forces and first responders alike. An empty seat is set aside in honor of the Prisoners of War (POW) and Missing in Action (MIA) soldiers. The courthouse dons festive outdoor decorations during Memorial Day.

Local Veterans Benefits
Good fortune came to local veterans in the form of retired Marine Ralph Hutto. Hutto advocates for veterans and helps them receive the compensation they deserve through his work with the Veterans Service office of Mountain City. Hutto also served with the Honor Guard and local American Legion.
“Our county is 13th out of over 90 counties in the state when it comes to revenue per veteran,” said Hutto.
The James H. Quillen Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, known simply as the VA, is the source for local veteran care. This type of healthcare system provides for veterans regardless of their situation. Veterans can receive help with housing, employment, and caregiver support. Explore or visit the local VA for more information on possible benefits and qualifications.