Silent Sentinels

In the valley of Second Creek, just west of the busy commercial district of Knoxville, they stand silent and vigilant.  Stone sentinels in platoon strength parade on an acre of grass amidst an industrious, noisy city.  Arrayed in two squads in military precision, the ranks of granite stones, each twelve feet high, a foot deep and four feet across the face, stand watch over the names of those who stood watch over us.

The site of the Knoxville World’s Fair of 1982 was quickly converted to multiple public uses after the close of the last profitable such exposition.  The fair comprised an area that ran north to south and was confined mostly between the west shoulder of the Knoxville business district and Second Creek which flows south into the Tennessee River a scant quarter mile away.

The northern half of the fair area is covered with a swath of green grass interrupted only by a fountain pool and surrounded by shade trees. The far northern end of the plain is the site of the East Tennessee Veterans Memorial.  It stands quiet and serene in contrast to the ever-changing activity that swirls around it.

Immediately to the north of the memorial stands the ponderous L&N Railway Station, built in 1905 and now home to the L&N STEM Academy.  The station enjoys some small notoriety for being included in several scenes in James Agee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, A Death in the Family. The imposing red brick Victorian style structure hovers over the site and dominates the northern horizon and carries the badge of inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places.

To the west of the memorial stands the old L&N freight house. Like the station, it is constructed of red brick and has been converted to more modern uses including offices and classrooms.  The multiple tracks that once led into the terminal and freight house have, like the steam locomotives they once served, long since departed.  No evidence of them remains in the open field of grass.  It now serves running children, frisbees and the occasional festival.

Behind the freight house and running along the banks of Second Creek lies a single-track railroad that links the Norfolk Southern main line to the Gulf & Ohio Railway which serves local industries on both sides of the Tennessee River.  An occasional switch engine sporting the red wings of the Gulf & Ohio logo will pass, the engineer entertaining the playing children with multiple blasts from the chimes, or air horn.  Children run to see the engine and wave, then run back to the fountain pool to laugh and jump about very much like fish out of water.

The fountain pool is bordered by a play area filled with swings and all manner of devices meant to entertain kids and make them ready for sleep.  The children run from the fountain pool to the play area and back again while their parents sit on benches or blankets on the ground wondering what it was like to have that same energy so long ago.  Water shoots into the air from the jets in the fountain pool in syncopated rhythms to which the children dance and squeal.  Parents chat while runners make their rounds and college students throw footballs in the wide field.

Further to the southwest and across Second Creek stands the Knoxville Museum of Art, its pink Tennessee marble facade and oversize windows monitoring the passing people in the World’s Fair Park, the occasional train and the ever-present activities.

Around the whole run the busy streets of a medium-sized city, humming with truck and bus traffic, blaring horns and the constant vibrations of commercial life.  There is no quiet place, no refuge from the sounds or the dominating buildings, such as the Tennessean Hotel which towers over the southeastern corner of the grounds; except for the memorial.

With all the commotion, noise and vibrant activity of the surroundings, the memorial stands as a place of peace, perfectly still, immoveable, almost tranquil.  Life flows around it as though the memorial were a large stone set in the middle of a swiftly moving mountain stream.  It is a constant reminder of how and why our children play and laugh while we lounge on the grass and smile at their antics. We live our lives with the potential for goodness and peace and happiness, in part, through the existence of such pools of consideration. This memorial, like countless others just like it across the country, remind us of our great fortune to have men and women who are always vigilant, always prepared, always watching.

Arrayed like a camp picket around three sides of the perimeter of the memorial are holly trees and bushes, arranged in perfect military order and trimmed to reveal a glimpse of the sentries standing guard inside, yet not the whole.  On the most recent day I visited, one tree was brightened with a red, white, and blue bow secured at eye level. Someone who remembered was grateful and had paused to consider and leave their own small memorial.

The entrance to the west side of the plot presents a full view of the ranks of stones which bear the circle and three stars of the Tennessee state flag representing the three geographical areas of the state.

The great granite stones serve to remind the visitor of those who stand between us and those whose greatest wish is to do us harm. They also stand in stark testimony to the cost of that vigilance.  The names of more than six thousand seven hundred lives are inscribed upon the polished western face of each four-foot-wide stone.  While they stand and serve to remind us of our good fortune, their true service is far greater.  The great stone columns stand to memorialize and protect the names of those who saw something greater than self, something worth giving their all to preserve and pass on to others.  The stones stand guard over the names and their memories.

The columns are assembled in ranks, four abreast, divided into two squads separated by a central pathway.  Atop each column is a designation of the conflict from which the names are drawn beginning with the First World War and continuing through our current military conflicts.  The individual names are grouped by county of origin.  The stone columns are a light grey in color but burn a bright white in the direct sunlight as the crystals reflect the sun.  Running fingers over their surface reveals a familiar, slightly granular texture that recalls ballast stones used in railroad rights of way. Even on the warmest days, they are cool to the touch. Only the facings of the stones that bear the many inscribed names are polished smooth. Visitors run fingers along the many lines of names, searching for a family member or friend.  Some pull out paper and pencil to make a charcoal impression of a sought-after name.

The central walkway and the viewing paths between the ranks are, like the standing stones themselves, of granite, which hardens with age. The grass at the foot of each rank, front and rear, is manicured to consistency and accompanied by granite benches on which visitors sit on occasion and consider the cost.  A stone bench at the entrance is inscribed with the command to “Please act with propriety in order that these men and women be properly honored”.

Propriety is the order of the day as people wander into the quiet space, just yards from shrieking children engrossed in play. There is about the place a reverential quiet, even amongst so much noise.  It is as though the holly trees and bushes serve not just to partially obstruct vision, but to serve as a sound barrier as well.  They work together to insulate the nave of the memorial from the laughing and celebrating families.  Those who alter course tend enter do so with a quiet reflection, slowing their step as though they sense they’ve wandered into a sacred space.  At times, the breeze carries the scent of sun block from those headed to the fountains.

An occasional national flag is pressed into the soil before a few of the stones, left by family members who wait and consider.  Boisterous young men cease their laughing and cast sideways glances as they pass the entrance, hesitant to enter but curious. Young families with children in tow wander through and read the names on the stone facings and wonder who was Tom B. Chrisman of Jefferson County, Tennessee and the six thousand others.

Tom Chrisman was a Marine who volunteered in the highest tradition of his native state to serve in a time of great conflict. He had just married his young wife when he was deployed to the Pacific and waded into the hell that was Peleliu Island in September of 1944.  His young wife never remarried and passed into eternity with Tom seventy-two years later. All that remains is his name, etched into the smooth granite face of a stone column that protects it for anyone who wishes to see, remember and honor in the quiet and solitude of their thoughts.

Other names are more recognizable.  The rear, or eastern face, of fourteen columns is devoted to the men from East Tennessee who were awarded the Medal of Honor.  The Medal of Honor is never “won”.  It’s not some prize that might be sought after to increase one’s esteem among others or never again need to pay for a beer.  It is a memorial all its own to the valor and selfless sacrifice of those who saw something greater than themselves and elected to fight to preserve it in the ultimate fashion.  Most do not survive their commitment to their beliefs to return home. The names, alone given a place of high honor, ring out.  Their unit and rank as well as the site of their acts of courage are inscribed, but the specifics of their sacrifices are absent. It is in the charge of the reader to search and find the stories behind the names. Truly honoring those who serve us requires that we investigate, that we strive to learn and to know and in the knowing, we can remember.  We remember men like Troy McGill and Paul Huff.  We strive to understand men like Alexander Bonnyman while we recognize the name of Alvin York.  They are all there, the names preserved and protected by the tall columns.

The names lend emphasis to something greater still, and that is the consciousness of a nation to its founding principles and its heritage.  One column speaks to this reality with a quote from President John Kennedy.  The viewer must tilt the head back to see high up on the column the words, “A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces but also by the men it honors, the men it remembers”.  Individuals stand and read the words.  I watch them and wonder if they grasp their significance, if they understand the weight of President Kennedy’s convictions and their application to today and how we honor, or not, the men who made possible the greatness of our towns, our cities and our national character.

Two things, though, stand above the names, above the remembrance of their sacrifices. At the rear of the memorial rises a bell tower.  Standing at twenty-four feet, it dominates the memorial from the east. Behind the bell tower sitting low to the ground rest five shallow, round planters filled to overflowing with yellow lantana.  The bright colors are a stark contrast to the grey stone that dominates the area.

Inscribed high on the four sides of the bell tower are the four essential freedoms spoken of by President Roosevelt; the freedom of speech, the freedom from fear, the freedom from want, and the freedom of worship.  The list of essential freedoms, as he referred to it, tells us more about Mr. Franklin Roosevelt than it does about the ideals of our country, I think. Still, the ideal of freedom rises even above the names of those who gave all they had to preserve it.

At the opposite end of the memorial, mounted in a circle of granite steps facing the entrance and the bell tower, stands a flag staff.  The national flag is always flying, illuminated at night, like the stones, with bright light.  The bell tower of freedom is possible because of the flag flying from the staff.  They are both made possible by the names on the stone columns who are remembered and memorialized by the acre of land set amidst the hustle of a city that seldom notices.

The artist who designed the memorial identified our obligation to the names inscribed on the stones.  Near the words of President Kennedy is found a poem written on New Year’s Day of 1970 by Major Michael Davis O’Donnell.

If you are able, save for them a place inside of you and save one backward glance when you are leaving for the places they can no longer go. Be not ashamed to say you loved them, though you may or may not have always.  Take what they have left and what they have taught you with their dying and keep it with your own.  And in that time when men decide and feel safe to call the war insane, take one moment to embrace those gentle heroes you left behind.

Three months after writing these words, Major O’Donnell, a helicopter pilot, was reported missing over Cambodia.  His remains were eventually recovered and interred in Arlington National Cemetery on 16 August 2001.

The memorial stands and waits.  It awaits the next visitor, the next Veteran’s Day service, the next tide of children running to the fountain pool and the next conflict. Room remains on the stones for more names, more servants, more stories.  Wars are fought, names are added, and families remember.

The East Tennessee Veterans Memorial stands silent and eternal that we might save one backward glance and remember and embrace those who no longer can walk with us.

(with thanks to author Michael Sawyer for allowing us to publish)

 

Public Dedication Ceremony Honors Cpl Jones and the Men of the 117th Infantry

Corporal James Trenton Jones, from East Tennessee, served with the 117th Infantry during World War I. During his valiant service he was the recipient of the Distinguished Service Cross; the United States second highest medal for valor that can be given to a soldier in the Army. Tragically he died at age 32 in 1930. His family ordered a headstone from the Veterans Administration and for reasons unknown it was never delivered to his gravesite at Lynnhurst Cemetery. Major Gary Lowe and his brother Grady came into possession of the headstone over twenty years ago and carefully preserved the marker until it could be identified where Cpl. Jones was buried.
 
On Thursday, March 9, 2017 at 11:00 am at Lynnhurst Cemetery, 2300 W. Adair, Knoxville, the dedication ceremony (WBIR coverage) took place at the graveside of Cpl. James Trenton Jones where his headstone completed its journey after 86 years. Military Honors were rendered by East Tennessee Veterans Honor Guard. During the ceremony Emeritus ETVMA board member Nick McCall traced the movement of the 117th through Europe highlighting Cpl. Jones’s service: 

James Trenton Jones was born August 28, 1898 to John Dowell Jones and Estelle Virginia LaPrade Jones. He was one of two sons born to J.D. and Estelle, and was the brother of Clyde Wallace Jones.

James volunteered for military duty on April 24, 1917–three weeks after President Woodrow Wilson asked for Congress’ declaration of war on Germany, he certainly possessed the “Volunteer Spirit” of his home state–and he would become a member of Company C, 117th Infantry Regiment, part of the 30th (“Old Hickory”) Division formed of Tennesseans , South Carolinians and North Carolinians.

The troops of C Company were largely drawn from Knox County. In reviewing the makeup of C Company, commandred by Captrain George A. Blair, the unit included farm boys, mechanics, salesmen and clerks (like James Jones would later become) and students–a fairly broad section of the male population of Knoxville in the early 1900s. James and his buddies trained hard at Camp Sevier in South Carolina, beginning in the fall of 1917; by May 1918, these East Tennessee “doughboys” were en route to Europe on troopships.

But, nothing could have prepared 19-year-old James Jones and his buddies for what they would face on the Western Front in midsummer 1918.

The 30th Division was one of two US divisions selected to serve alongside British forces in the Flanders region of Belgium. With Britain’s forces hard-hit by a series of massive German offensives in spring 1918, the Old Hickory Division was sent to reinforce British troops around the ancient city of Ypres. Called “Wipers” by the hard-pressed British Tommies, this city was the scene of three separate battles and savage fighting in 1914, 1915 and 1917. In fact, Ypres was where in spring 1915, Germany intoduced poison gas against the Allies. The city and its surrounding villages were a sceneof utter devastation by summer 1918. (When one sees photos from World War I of soldiers, horses and mules half-buried in mud, those photos are often depictions of Ypres and its environs.) The moon-like and mud-churned landscape of the Ypres salient was where James Jones and C Company first experienced their first taste of frontline combat–and, it was almost his last.

The 117th was assigned to a British forward training camp, where it was given its final training in trench warfare and in attacking strong points.  After a few days of this work, the regiment was ordered into the battle line to face real-life trench warfare before all units were prepared for their first major offensive. During this time, C Company was caught in a massive German bombardment on its front-line positions, and in an outpost, detached from the main trench positons, was Corporal Jones and a group of light machine gunners, on July 24, 1918. Five of them became casualties–two died–and Jones himself was seriously injured by the shelling, but he kept his wits and, despite his own injuries, he did as any good non-commissioned officer would do: he took care of his men first, applying first aid to his wounded troops, until rescue came for them all.

For his actions, he was decorated with the Army‘s second highest medal, presented for extreme gallantry and risk of life in combat, the Distinguished Service Cross.

Jones’ DSC citation reads as follows:

            The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918, takes pride in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross to Corporal James T. Jones (ASN: 1307409), United States Army, for extraordinary heroism in action while serving with Company C, 117th Infantry Regiment, 30th Division, A.E.F., near Ypres, Belgium, 24 July 1918. Corporal Jones was in charge of a detached automatic rifle post, heavily bombarded by the enemy. Two of his men were killed by shell fire, two others and he himself seriously wounded. Though it was his first experience under fire, Corporal Jones exhibited unhesitating devotion to duty by remaining at his post. Sending for assistance, he reorganized his position, and gave aid and comfort to the wounded.

While his wounds were described in his DSC citation as serious, he nevertheless recovered enough to return to C Company and the 117th. After two months of action near Ypres, the 30th Division was transferred south to northern France, where Jones caught up again with his unit.

He fought alongside them next at the 30th Division’s most famous battle: the cracking of the Germans’ vaunted Hindenburg Line near the northern French town of Bellicourt in fall 1918. On September 29, 1918, alongside British and Australian troops, the 117th and the rest of the 30th Division stormed this supposedly impregnable defensive line of the Germans at one of its most highly defended points: the three-mile long tunnel of the Saint-Quentin Canal.   45 feet wide and in places 30 feet deep, the canal was studded with machine-gun nests, barbed wire, interlocking trenches and secret passages into the safety of the bombproof canal tunnel. The tunnel’s entrances were even more heavily fortified.

In vicious, often hand-to-hand combat among the barbed wire belts and machine guns, all companies of the 117th lost 26 officers and 366 men on September 29. Days of hard fighting followed, to consolidate the Allies’ gains and to fight back frantic German counterattacks to recapture Bellicourt and the canal. The bravery and fortitude of Jones, C Company and the rest of the 117th at bloody Bellicourt was, however, one of the battles that swung the course of the war decisively in the Allies’ favor. As one author has written: “Their combined efforts helped turn the tide of the war, smashing through the German defenses, making it possible to defeat the Kaiser’s army.”  

Just over a month later, Imperial Germany would sue for peace, and Armistice Day followed on November 11, 1918.

In spring 1919, Corporal Jones and the men of C Company returned home to Knoxville. Undoubtedly, Jones and his fellow veterans who marched down Gay Street to crowds and applause on April 5, 1919 were very different men from the ones who had gone forth to war in summer 1917. In the words of two popular songs of the period, Jones’ and his fellow doughboys’ outlooks might have been less in keeping with the jaunty high spirits of “How You Gonna Keep Them Down on the Farm, After They’ve See Paree?“ and more the somber sentiments of “There’s A Long, Long Trail A-Winding, Into the Land of My Dreams.”

In addition to the Distinguished Service Cross, Jones was also decorated with the Belgian Croix de Guerre ( in Flemish, Oorlogskruis), with palm, Belgium’s highest award for bravery and military virtue on the battlefield, as well as the Victory Medal awarded to all the AEF’s doughboys .

James T. Jones died December 11, 1930; at the time of his death, he was only 32, still, a young age even 85 years ago. His apparent cause of death was a heart attack. One has to wonder, though, how much of his postwar life and health had been shaped by the wounds, sights, sounds, and experiences he had faced twelve years earlier in the muddy and gas-clouded trenches of the Western Front.   As we know, not all injuries of war are physical, and we can only speculate how much of these experiences of war followed Jones in his relatively short post-war life. He left behind a widow, Lucia Gilmore Jones, and two children.

So, today, over 86 years after his death, let us recall James Trenton Jones, and remember the service and sacrifice of him and a host of young men from across Knox County and East Tennessee, who comprised, in the words of Ernest Hemingway, the “Lost Generation”: the veterans and survivors of the First World War.

Allied Van Lines article about Top Places to Visit After a Relocation to Knoxville

Top Places to Visit after Moving to Knoxville, TN

by Ryan Cox on Feb 14, 2017

Knoxville, Tennessee, was first settled in 1786 and quickly became Tennessee’s capital city. After the Civil War, Knoxville grew into a booming manufacturing and distribution center. In the early 1900s, the Tennessee Valley Authority was headquartered there and is still one of the area’s largest employers. The Oak Ridge National Laboratory, built in the mid-1900s, is another leading employer in the area. Today, Knoxville is the third-largest city in the state and a cultural center of the Appalachian Mountains. It offers one of the gateways to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The city is known for its beautiful views, the expansive campus of the University of Tennessee and a wide variety of annual events. As you settle into your new home and get ready to explore your new surroundings, you might wonder which places you should visit. This list of fun and interactive attractions will help you to get to know your new community.

The University of Tennessee

Knoxville-utThe University of Tennessee is a public research institution and the first land grant university in Tennessee. The university was founded in 1794 with the goal to educate citizens of the state. The students are known for their collegiate sports achievements as well as their academics. Students can earn a bachelor’s, master’s, doctorate or other professional degree at the university. The University of Tennessee at Knoxville also offers workshops, lectures and other special events that anyone can attend. The expansive campus features a veterinary teaching hospital where you can bring your pet for care. While touring the campus of the University of Tennessee, be sure to stop and see the South & East Stadium where the Volunteers play football. The University of Tennessee is also known for its Thompson-Boling Assembly Center and Arena where men’s basketball is played and special events, such as concerts, take place.

East Tennessee Historical Society

If you enjoy history or if you simply want to learn more about this area of Tennessee, visit the East Tennessee Historical Society. The museum features permanent and rotating exhibits such as “Rock of Ages: East Tennessee’s Marble Industry” and “Voices of the Land: The People of East Tennessee.” The museum has art collections of pieces made by Tennessee residents. These works of art include sculptures, quilts, wood art, paintings and drawings. The East Tennessee Historical Society is also home to more than 13,000 artifacts and pieces of material culture representing Tennessee. The museum hosts regular guest lectures and special events with a focus on preserving Appalachian culture and remembering Eastern Tennessee’s history.

Old City Knoxville

When you are ready to get out and walk around historic Knoxville, come into Old City Knoxville and do some exploring. The historic district features an eclectic collection of bars, restaurants, art galleries and boutique shops. During the summertime, you can often catch a live performance of music in the evenings as you relax at one of the bistro tables. The neighborhood is buzzing from morning until midnight; coffee houses, artist galleries and shops are open during the day, and clubs and bars are open well into the night. Old City Knoxville is also the home of the Green Line Trolley. You can park for free along Willow Avenue or under the interstate overpass next to Barleys. There are also a number of convenient paid parking lots available.

Zoo Knoxville

Those who enjoy exotic animals and conservation may wish to check out Zoo Knoxville. The zoo is home to several red pandas and is ranked as the number one zoo in the United States for red panda conservation. African elephants, African lions, chimpanzees, giraffes, giant tortoises, Malayan tigers, meerkats, western lowland gorillas and southern white rhinoceroses are just some of the species on display here. Zoo Knoxville also features many educational and interactive animal experiences. You can attend special animal demonstrations or lectures from conservation experts or participate in one of the fundraising dinners, concerts or other events to help support the zoo’s conservation efforts.

Knoxville Museum of Art

Knoxville-artTake in the arts of Eastern Tennessee at the Knoxville Museum of Art. The museum offers temporary exhibits such as “Higher Ground: A Century of the Visual Arts in East Tennessee” and the artwork of students throughout the eastern half of the state. Knoxville Museum of Art also houses many permanent exhibits, including “Facets of Modern and Contemporary Glass” and Richard Jolley’s “Cycle of Life” installation. The museum has all types of art, including hand-carved furniture, sculptures, quilts, paintings and more. The Knoxville Museum of Art also provides you with the opportunity to attend special events throughout the year, such as the Sunday art days for kids or the cocktail and guest lecture hours. (Photo Credit: http://www.knoxart.org/)

Clarence Brown Theatre

The Clarence Brown Theatre is a community theater and playhouse where you can see a wide variety of performances. The theater is located in the middle of the University of Tennessee’s campus. It seats up to 564 guests and features two pits and an expansive stage. Some of the past performances at the theater have included “Around the World in 80 Days” and “Top Girls.” Visiting the Clarence Brown Theatre also provides you with the opportunity to watch film screenings. The theater frequently shows indie films as well as some American classics. The theater is available for rent for special events. The theater’s actors and managers often hold special events, such as acting workshops and summer camps for kids and teenagers.

McClung Museum of Natural History & Culture

At the McClung Museum of Natural History & Culture, you can view permanent exhibitions of ancient Egypt, Tennessee’s rivers, the origins of the human species and the Civil War’s battles in and around Knoxville. The museum also has temporary exhibits that have included “Dinosaur Discoveries: Ancient Fossils,” “New Ideas and Maya: Lords of Time.” The McClung Museum of Natural History & Culture has displays of archeological discoveries from the Appalachian region of Tennessee. You can also attend special lectures and educational events for people of all ages. Admission to the museum and parking is free for all guests.

The Bijou Theatre

The Bijou Theatre is a performance venue for all types of art. You can visit the Bijou Theatre to enjoy a comedy show, a musical performance, a theatrical play or a screening of a movie. The theater also hosts special guest lectures and holiday events, such as the annual St. Patrick’s Day festivities. The Banff Mountain Film Festival takes place at the theater each year in March, featuring films produced by artists from Knoxville and the surrounding area. The Bijou Theatre also features a bistro where you can enjoy a cocktail or an appetizer before, between or after a theatrical performance.

World’s Fair Park

Knoxville-worl-fair-parkIn 1982, Knoxville hosted the World’s Fair. The World’s Fair Park was built on the site after the completion of that event. The attractions at World’s Fair Park include a riverfront boardwalk where you can boat, swim and fish. There is a play fountain with interactive geysers for splashing in on hot summer days. The park is also home to many historical markers and statues that explain the area’s history. Gardens line the paths, along with benches where you can sit and read or enjoy a leisurely lunch. The World’s Fair Park also provides you with the opportunity to get tickets for boat rides on the Tennessee River, visit the Knoxville welcome center, listen to a concert in the amphitheater or attend one of the many special events that take place throughout the year.

East Tennessee Veterans Memorial

East Tennessee Veterans Memorial is a public plaza with granite columns dedicated to soldiers who gave their lives for freedom in World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Operation Desert Storm and other military conflicts. Each soldier’s name is inscribed on the pillars. You can take photos or do chalk rubbings of the names. More than 6,000 names of veterans from Tennessee are memorialized at the plaza. The East Tennessee Veterans Memorial also provides you with the opportunity to learn more about each of the armed conflicts. The memorial is surrounded by plenty of green space with benches so that you can sit and reflect on the veterans who have been honored by the memorial. Special events take place at the memorial on Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day each year.

 

1st Lieutenant Robert W. Saunders Bridge Dedication

saunders-bridge-dedication-2016First Lieutenant Saunders, United States Marine Corps, made the ultimate sacrifice on June 17, 1970 when his plane crashed in inclement weather during a routine mission near Yakota Air Base, Japan.  The bridge dedicated in his honor is the one spanning State Route 162 on Dutchtown Road in Knoxville.  Knoxville Senators Becky Duncan Massed and Richard Briggs dedicated the bridge September 21, 2016.

‘Gold Star’ Mom

Harrison

Kim Harrison has a motto that helps her face each day, borrowed from Maya Angelou: “Having courage does not mean that we are unafraid. Having courage and showing courage mean we face our fears. We are able to say, ‘I have fallen, but I will get up.’”

A dedicated administrative specialist for the Department of History, Harrison lost her son Daniel in 2004 when he was killed in combat while serving in Iraq. Daniel served with the 293rd Military Police Company from the 3rd Infantry Division. Although his life was lost, he saved the lives of other soldiers on patrol that day.

“Losing a child is one of the most unnatural things someone can go through, but I couldn’t be more proud of Daniel’s bravery and courage,” says Harrison, who has served the history department for twenty years. “Without the support of the department, the college, and the university, I would not have made it through this tragedy.”

In light of her loss, Harrison has been able to use her experience to foster new relationships with other mothers who have lost sons or daughters in active duty. Today, she serves as president of the Volunteer Chapter of American Gold Star Mothers and coordinates fundraisers to help support veterans organizations like HonorAir Knoxville, A Soldier’s Child, and the Fisher House Foundation. She is also active in Rolling Thunder, an organization that works to bring home prisoners of war and soldiers missing in action.

“Even though there are days when I don’t want to get out of bed because the grief is so bad, I have to remind myself that Daniel would want me to keep on living,” Harrison says.

Last year, Harrison took the “Leap of Faith” jump from an airplane with elite paratroopers of the 101st Airborne in honor of her son.

“It was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever done,” she says. “Surprisingly, I wasn’t the least bit afraid.”

Her son’s death has also afforded Harrison the opportunity to connect with several UT students whom she would not have come in contact with otherwise. Since 2007, UT’s Department of Military Science/Army ROTC has hosted a Mountain Man Memorial March each spring to honor and remember fallen military men and women. Several students have marched in honor of Daniel, hiking 26.2 miles with weight on their backs through the mountains of Gatlinburg.

“My greatest fear is that his name will be forgotten,” says Harrison. But organizations such as UT’s Center for the Study of War and Society are ensuring that doesn’t happen. Harrison was able to work closely with Cynthia Tinker, associate coordinator of the center, as she researched names for the East Tennessee Veterans Memorial, which was dedicated and officially unveiled on November 15, 2008. The memorial, located in World’s Fair Park, is a plaza of granite pillars bearing the names of 6,172 fallen heroes from thirty-five East Tennessee counties who died in military service from World War I to present-day conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

One of those pillars bears Daniel’s name.

Although nothing can replace the son she lost, Harrison says she feels like she gained several additional sons since the tragedy. Many of Daniel’s army buddies still keep in touch with her and visit her, and some even call her “Mom.”

“Five children are appropriately named after Daniel,” Harrison says. “His life was full of camaraderie, kindness, and courage, and I can only hope to live a life that reflects and honors his.”

—By Sara Haywood (this article was first published in Higher Ground, April 23, 2013, an online publication of the University of Tennessee College of Arts & Sciences)
Photo by Patrick Murphy-Racey

 

The Faces of Margraten

With the seventieth anniversary of the American War Cemetery and Memorial  in Margraten, Netherlands, this November, there is a new project called The Faces of Margraten. Through this project we aim to give a face to as many soldiers buried or memorialized there as possible by decorating their graves with a personal photo. In co-operation with adopters, the soldiers’ relatives and veterans’ associations we will try to collect as many photos as possible in the upcoming months. You can find all the information on the website: www.thefacesofmargraten.com.

If you are are or know relatives of soldiers who are buried at Margraten and have pictures you can contribute, please let us know.  Please contact info@fieldsofhonor-database.com

 

4th Annual Medal of Honor Evening

Monday, May 5, 2014
at the Historic Foundry Building

Honoring Medal of Honor recipient Private Calvin J. Ward, WWI

Social Hour begins at 5:30 pm, and dinner begins at 6:30Calvin-Ward_edited-233x350

Calvin J. Ward, a Greene County resident, was the most highly decorated soldier in WWI — yet, sadly, few people outside of Morristown and Greene County have ever heard of him.

The featured speaker for the evening will be Dr. Michael Birdwell, from Tennessee Tech University, who is a world renowned expert on the Argonne Forest Military Campaign.

Buy Tickets →