Mayor Kelly Wolfe asked veterans to stand and be recognized during Jonesborough's 30th Veterans Memorial Musical Tribute on Tuesday afternoon. (Photos by Dave Boyd/Johnson City Press)
JONESBOROUGH – Though Memorial Day might be considered by some to be a solemn occasion, during its annual celebration, the town of Jonesborough paid homage not only to deceased veterans but to living ones as well.
On Sunday afternoon, hundreds gathered in the Jonesborough Visitors Center’s community room to pay their respects to U.S. veterans — both living and dead — during the 30th Veterans Memorial Musical Tribute.
It was the 30th such event in 15 years for the town’s Veterans Affairs Committee, which conducts veteran-themed ceremonies on both Memorial Day and Veterans Day. The musical tribute featured songs performed by the Johnson City Community Concert Band, under the direction of Roxanne Haskill.
At the event’s conclusion, Marion Light, who chairs the committee, said he and other committee members were pleased with the result.
“We thought it went extremely well,” Light said. “It’s successful when you have this kind of crowd.”
Light said he thought anywhere from 350 to 400 people gathered to bear witness to the ceremony. While he said that turnout was “average” for the Memorial Day ceremony, he added he and the committee were grateful the people chose to spend their Sunday at the ceremony.
.For Mayor Kelly Wolfe, a high turnout may not have been surprising. As Wolfe welcomed the crowd to the ceremony, he said that in Jonesborough, patriotism is a priority.
“We’re a town that shows pride in its country on a regular basis,” Wolfe said. “When you drive down Main Street, you can see that by looking at our light poles and seeing the flags proudly flying.”
Wolfe said it was important to remember those who had fallen in service to their country. But, he added, it was also important to remember another group of veterans.
“This is a day of remembrance, but it’s also a day of celebration,” Wolfe said. “I’m going to take a moment to ask that we celebrate those veterans who are still with us today.”
The recognition of living veterans and their service to the U.S. continued as the band played its set. Before beginning, Haskill, who herself is retired from the Marine Corps, took a moment to let the crowd know how important the ceremony was to her and her band.
“There are several members of the band who have served in the military,” she said. “It’s a distinct honor to be here and play for you today.”
Haskill and the band would pass that honor forward to veterans in the crowd during a playing of “Armed Forces Salute,” a medley which includes the songs from every branch of the U.S. military. Before playing, Haskill asked those veterans to stand when they heard their branch’s song so they too could be recognized.
As the event continued, one family received even further recognition with an exhibit in the Heritage Alliance Museum and Archives. Over the past four years on Veterans Day and Memorial Day, the museum has featured an exhibit featuring artifacts and histories of Washington County’s veterans. This Memorial Day, according to Heritage Executive Director Deborah Montanti, the artifacts and legacy came from one family.
“Instead of collecting artifacts from various veterans throughout the county, this year we had the privilege to sit down with ... the family of Dr. David and Margaret Doane,” Montanti said. “It is humbling to realize that this family’s legacy extends through three centuries, five wars, four generations and continues to this day. We invite you to share our privilege and to join us as we honor the tremendous service and sacrifice of the Doane family.”
The Doane exhibit is on display at the museum, located in the Visitors Center. With regard to service and sacrifice, however, near the event’s conclusion, Light reminded those in attendance of a quote from renowned U.S. Army Gen. George S. Patton Jr. that suggested that military service should be celebrated, rather than mourned.
“It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men and women who died,” Light quoted. “Rather, we should thank God such men and women lived.”
Follow Max Hrenda on Twitter @MaxLHrenda. Like him on Facebook at facebook.com/jcpresshrenda.