By: Angie A. Gambill
A large crowd gathered at Heritage Hall on Friday to honor and remember our military veterans on Veteran’s Day. Johnson County is traditionally a Republican county in a solid blue state, and patriotism was naturally running high following last week’s election.
Scott Wilkes, an Army veteran and pastor of First United Methodist church included a prayer for healing for Republicans, Democrats and Independents as well as the new president-elect.
Johnson County Middle School music teacher and “Vocal Intensity,” comprised of seventh and eighth grade students, were a major part of the program. Their renditions of “Blue and Red and White,” “We Honor You,” “Song for the Unsung Hero” and “This Is America” in which Davis joined her music students’ voices, met with much applause and appreciation. Richard Dionne, master of ceremonies, Air Force veteran and commander of the Johnson County Honor Guard reminded those in attendance that these young people across our great nation are what it’s all about. “We are passing the torch to the next generation,” he said as he asked the students to stand that had a military member in their family.
Johnson County Mayor Larry Potter reiterated Dionne’s message and added that veterans gave their “today for our tomorrow. Freedom is never free.” Potter dedicated the service on Friday to Kerry Gentry and Harry Wills, two community-minded veterans that very recently departed this life to “serve on a larger stage.” He mentioned that both these men had set the bar high for all of us.
Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey spent his last Veteran’s Day in office in Johnson County. He told everyone how much he had come to love this county and its people. He also spoke in wider terms of the country as a whole and remarked that no other country on earth enjoys the peaceful transition of power that is present in the United States. He spoke with emotion in his voice of President Obama and President-elect Trump sitting down together in the White House to discuss the country’s future. The Lt. Gov. ended on a light-hearted note by saying, “If anyone wants to know why I’m leaving public office, I will show you the pictures of my grandchildren on my cell phone.”
Newly elected state Senator-elect and captain in the U.S. Navy Reserve Jon Lundberg thanked Ramsey for the solid groundwork laid by him throughout East Tennessee and the state as a whole. He expressed his desire to continue the relationship enjoyed by Ramsey and Johnson County and thanked the veterans for their service. He reminded everyone that when our veterans return home that our jobs begin. According to Lundberg, 22 veterans commit suicide in the United States every day. “Our brothers and sisters need us. I challenge you to reach out to them.” He also spoke to the students taking part in the program. “We wear these uniforms in honor of you.”
The Johnson County Veteran’s Day ceremony ended with a tribute to all veterans from every branch of the military and the service flags presentation. A wreath was placed on stage in memory of those that have passed away. Dwayne Dickson, pastor of First Christian Church, gave the benediction with a prayer of gratitude for our nation and our veterans.