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SHHS, VAMC pay tribute to veterans

Rex Barber • Nov 9, 2012 at 9:56 PM

There will soon be a new memorial at Science Hill High School to honor alumni who have fallen in battle, and officials at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center Friday honored those it serves prior to this Veterans Day, which is Sunday.

A ceremony was held Friday morning at the location where the memorial will be on the campus of the high school. At least 50 people attended the somber occasion.

Theresa Billings was instrumental in getting the memorial placed.

She began work on the project about a year and a half ago by contacting Jenny Brock, Johnson City School Board member, and they started this project thinking there would be a lot of money to raise, but many businesses contributed to the effort.

Billings’ son is a major in the Marine Corps and also a 1994 graduate of the school.

“So, yes, we’re a military family and it makes it even more dear to us,” Billings said.

Thirty-eight names will be on a wall that will be included in the memorial. The area will be known as Alumni Memorial Circle. Each class will decide what to add to the area, but certainly there will be landscaping and pavers that match the school building in addition to the wall.

This memorial will honor fallen Science Hill veterans and will be located around the flagpole in the commons area between the school’s old office and auditorium. Names of veterans will be etched in panels attached to brick walls that will surround the flagpole, which will feature an alumni flag that will fly under the American flag.

Science Hill’s JROTC will monitor the area.

Brock said she was already looking for a project to bring the alumni of Science Hill together when Billings approached her with this idea.

“You know, we’ve had thousands and thousands go through Science Hill ... and so this was a great kind of a marriage of two projects.”

SHHS Principal Melanie Riden-Bacon said the memorial will be an important addition to the school.

“This memorial circle means a lot to our school and it means a lot to me to see our community pull together for such a great event,” she told the crowd gathered around the flag pole Friday morning.

The city of Johnson City began work on the project Friday after the ceremony. Today the city plans to pull up the concrete around the flag and replace it with pavers that match the facade of the school.

Billings said the memorial should be finished in about a month.

Every year the VA in Johnson City holds a Veterans Day celebration. This year the guest speaker was retired Col. John McCue, who spoke about the importance of recognizing freedoms veterans fought and died to preserve. McCue graduated from Science Hill High School and then graduated from The United States Military Academy at West Point.

“On this Veterans Day we give thanks for the 25 million Americans who strengthen our nation with their example of service and sacrifice,” McCue said. “For many veterans our nation was important enough to endure long separations from their families, miss the births of their children, freeze in sub-zero temperatures, bake in wild jungles, lose limbs and far too often lose their lives.”

Charlene Ehret, director of the VA, said veterans take on many faces.

A veteran is “an ordinary person who at one significant point in his or her life made out a blank check to the United States of America for any amount up to and including life itself,” she said. “Their bravery, their resourcefulness and their patriotism marks them as America’s finest citizens.”

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