ELIZABETHTON — While the Fourth of July and Memorial Day may have already passed this year, Elizabethton and Carter County residents continued the patriotism Saturday as they made their way to downtown Elizabethton Saturday afternoon to honor veterans and to hold a centennial celebration for the city’s Veterans Monument.
Scott Bowers, Carter County historian, said the original dedication of the monument was on Oct. 10, 1913.
“The structure was completed in 1912,” Bowers said. “They decided to coincide it with the 13 Tennessee volunteer calvaries reunion.”
According to the event program, the monument was first called “The Soldiers Monument” to serve as a memorial to those who fought in the Revolutionary and Civil wars.
“This monument was built for unity. Obviously, there was a healing process ... between the Union and the Confederate families here and this monument was supposed to be a place where they could always gather in unity. Over time, it’s been rededicated several times,” Bowers said. “Eventually, it was made for all veterans of all wars and all soldiers of all wars. This is Carter County’s ... gift to our veterans so that they never forget that they are not forgotten.”
Around noon, parade participants slowly moved from Big John’s Closeouts to the monument on East Elk Street, where veterans from World War II on were brought to the monument in cars and let out and escorted to their seats individually.
Claps from the crowd recognized each veteran, as members of the Watauga Valley Fife and Drum Corps, re-enactors dressed in period clothing from earlier wars and Rolling Thunder members went by the celebration festivities.
The celebration started with opening remarks by WJHL-TV’s Josh Smith and participants paused to say the Pledge of Allegiance and listen to national anthem, sung by Miss Watauga Valley 2013 Brittany Kyte.
School essay contest winners Hailey Pearman, Megan Bowers and Will Hull were also present to read their essays to the crowd.
Sitting underneath a tree at the celebration, David Bowers, said he was there for numerous reasons, which included listening to his daughter, Megan, read her winning essay.
“I’m out here to support her today,” he said. “Second reason, we have a lot of family members that have served the country proudly and it does mean a lot in regards to their service to our country. With Elizabethton being such a small community, everybody knows each other and everybody can relate to the service that different individuals have given to this proud area.”
State Sen. Rusty Crowe and state Rep. Kent Williams were also at the ceremony to present proclamations to the veterans.
“There were proclamations that should have been given to the soldiers and today we are presenting the proclamations either to the soldier himself or to a family representative,” Dawn Peters, a member of the Watauga Historical Association said.
Peters said total there were 65 soldiers who were either missing in action or prisoners of war from World War II through the Vietnam War who should have been credited with a proclamation.
Janette Mann, also a member of the WHA, said the organization took on the task of tracking down veterans and descendants as a way to honor them during this centennial celebration.
“After speaking with different family members and talking with them, it just humbled you so much to know that what these people had gone through in their lifetime to give us the preservation of freedom that we see today,” Mann said. “It’s just a big event and we are really excited about the whole program and the way it came together.”
Retired Marine Corps Gen. Russell Sutton was also at the event and retired Air Force Col. Mark Cooter and Air Force Maj. Angelina Maguinness, who laid a wreath at the ceremony.
A “21 Gun Salute” was performed by the American Legion Firing Squad and “Taps” was played by David Batchelder.