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Johnson County loses an American hero

Norm Tester, a native of Johnson County, left us last week. Most knew Norm as a good Christian, family man. He and his wife, Sherry, were leaders in their church, civic and social activities. Fewer of you probably knew that he was awarded one of the highest awards for valor that the military could award, second only to The Congressional Medal Of Honor. He didn’t broadcast it, and even when it was related in a book written by his commanding officer, fictitious names were used. The record of the awarding and The Silver Star itself cannot be obscured. I had the honor of interviewing Norm 10 or 12 years ago when we were interviewing veterans for the Local Veterans Video Museum, hosted in the local library in Mountain City, TN. I want to tell the story as Norm told me.
After tours in Germany with the U S Army, Norm was assigned to Viet Nam, leaving his wife and children behind. Norm, a Sergeant was assigned to work with and guard a small village in South Viet Nam. Norm especially liked working with the children and helped the villagers in every way he could. The few skirmishes they had with the enemy were with small groups, until one night a large body of the Viet Kong came across the river and moved on the small village garrison. Norm and his small group tried to defend the village by meeting the Viet Kong on a hill between the village and the river. The Viet Kong were moving up on them and it was obvious they were highly outnumbered. Pinned down on the hill, in total darkness, Norm called for air support. In the darkness, the pilots asked them for the location to bomb. Lying on the side of the hill in the darkness and knowing that they were going to be killed anyway, Norm told them that he would use his strobe light to guide them, and they bombed and strafed the area. Norm said his last thoughts were of his wife and children because he was going to die. When the bombing and strafing stopped, Norm and his small group were untouched and the enemy assault stopped. The next morning, they found over forty of the enemy dead on the hill surrounding them. Norm was awarded the coveted Silver Star for that and other acts.
God was not through with Norm and allowed him to be in Mountain City with us for approximately half a century. Norm Tester, American hero, was buried this week.

Ken Wiley