By: Marlana Ward
A sunny Monday morning was the perfect setting for the citizens of Johnson County to gather together to remember our fallen heroes on Memorial Day, May 26th. Many gathered at Ralph Stout Park to pay tribute to all those who had given their lives protecting the freedoms we enjoy every day.
The Master of Ceremonies for this years event was Air Force Veteran and Honor Guard Commander Richard Dionne. The National Anthem was performed by Nancy Davis just after the Johnson County Honor Guard completed the Presentation of Colors in front of the stage. The Pledge of Allegiance was led by Army Veteran Richard Bennett. All in attendance were honored to be led in the pledge by Mr. Bennett, who is a Purple Heart recipient as well as the recipient of two Bronze Stars. Mr. Bennett was wounded in combat just inland of Omaha Beach during World War II. Minister Richie Hayes of First Methodist Church gave the invocation.
Miss Lindsey DeBord performed a song of remembrance entitled Its an Honor to Serve.
Mountain City Mayor Lawrence Keeble expressed his gratitude to the Johnson County Honor Guard for their continued service to the community. Keeble had all veterans in attendance stand and then asked for everyone to reach out and thank any veterans they may be seated near. This was a time of appreciation and friendship as handshakes and smiles were shared throughout the crowd. Johnson County Mayor Larry Potter expressed his appreciation not only for those who have served but also for the parents who brought their children to the service. He reminded everyone of how important it is to instill in our children the importance of remembering such occasions. Tennessee Representative Timothy Hill urged everyone to remember that freedom is not bought cheaply and that every freedom has come at a great cost. Hill likened the importance of Americans remembering those who have fallen on Memorial Day to the Memorial Stones account in the book of Joshua.
Tennessee State Senator and Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey shared an account of a recent visit with a WWII veteran in Bristol. He spoke of how honored he was to have been able to hear the gentlemans stories of the war first hand and how he knew that not many chances remained to have the stories told by those who lived through them. He encouraged everyone to not take for granted the opportunity to sit with veterans and listen to their stories first hand. Two songs of honor and tribute were performed by Mrs. Nancy Davis and Mr. Shaun Small, which included Remember to Remember and God Bless America.
Mr. Richard Dionne returned to the podium to share some important dates and facts about this year and its importance to not only veterans but to all Americans. He shared that June 6th will mark the 70th anniversary of D-Day and that on that day in 1944 many American lives were lost. He added this year would mark the 100th year anniversary of the beginning of World War I. Mr. Dionne reminded those in attendance to visit the Veterans Wall and remember those listed, as they were our hometown heroes and had served to protect our freedoms.
Mr. Terry Reece, Chaplain of the Johnson County Honor Guard and Army Veteran read the names of all local veterans that had passed away since last Memorial Day. This list included 52 men and women who bravely performed a great service for our country. As the names were read, two wreaths were presented at the front of the stage in remembrance.
The Honor Guard paid tribute with a rifle volley followed by the playing of Taps while all those present reflected on loved ones that have given their time, service, and sometimes lives protecting our freedom.
The event was ended with the Benediction given by Minister Buddy Morefield of Appalachian Church of Christ.