As your eyes focus on these words, more than 1.4 million Americans will be in the military on active duty.
Veterans Day, 11-11-11, is Friday, but those who serve and have served this country will be honored at celebrations Thursday through Sunday, including the unveiling of two memorials. The Johnson City-Washington County Veterans’ Memorial, will become the first such memorial to exist in Johnson City. The other is the completion of the final phase of construction on the Elizabethton-Carter County Veterans Walk of Honor in Elizabethton.
The Johnson City-Washington County Veterans’ Memorial — a shrine nearly five years in the making — is located at the corner of West Market Street and Veterans Way near the U.S. National Cemetery at Mountain Home. The memorial is part of the redevelopment of Kiwanis Park, and the city’s $50,000 donation helped lay the major groundwork for its construction, as well as funds, supplies and labor donated by local companies and individuals.
Dan Kyte, the Johnson City-Washington County Veterans’ Memorial Committee spokesman, said the dedication of the new site will begin at 11 a.m. Friday.
“The ceremony will begin after a three-gun volley is heard from the National Cemetery at the (Veterans Affairs Medical Center),” he said. “Parking will be available on the street. And when that runs out, Johnson City Transit will be shuttling people to and from extra parking that’s just inside the VA’s main entrance and to the left.”
U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-1st, will be the keynote speaker.
“We’ll have the unveiling followed by a ceremony from a local chapter of Rolling Thunder,” Kyte said. “They will have a dedication ceremony for POWs and there will be a raising of the American flag and a POW flag, and Golden Corral employees will be serving refreshments on the grounds behind the memorial following the ceremony.”
Huge concrete shapes covered with red and black granite have been placed in a large semi circle facing out to an entrance that will read “Freedom is not Free.” Two additional rings of monuments follow the contour of the tallest features in a semi-circular pattern. Gray pavers have been set on walking paths between these areas, and brick has been set that runs from the inner circle, through the entry way and extends out to the edge of the street.
Large concrete blocks also have been placed around the memorial’s outer edge. These will have granite plaques on them to honor each of the military’s five branches — Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard.
The outer two rings will have names inscribed on black granite. The inner ring will be red granite and is reserved for the names of those who are missing in action or killed in action. The monuments on the outer rings are about 4 feet high. The inner ring’s monuments are up to 8 feet high. The memorial will include a gathering plaza for special events.
Tennessee records show more than 13,000 men and women from Washington County have served their country as members of the various branches of the military since the turn of the 20th century.
There also will be two Veterans Day observances in Carter County, including the celebration of the completion of a decade-long effort to construct the Elizabethton/Carter County Veterans War Memorial and Walk of Honor.
The first ceremony is the traditional Veterans Day observance that has been held for decades by the United Veterans Council. This year, the observance will be held in the Hampton High School gymnasium, beginning at 9 a.m. All veterans and their families are welcome.
Retired Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Sara Sellers will be the guest speaker for the event. The observance will include an Empty Chair ceremony. Veterans of all wars will also be recognized during a flag ceremony. Following the ceremony a wreath will be placed at the Carter County Veterans Monument in the circle next to the County Courthouse.
The second ceremony will be held at 11 a.m. at the War Memorial at the intersection of Armed Forces Drive and East Elk Avenue in downtown Elizabethton. State Sen. Rusty Crowe, R-Johnson City, a member of the Joint Select Committee on Veterans Affairs and a Vietnam veteran will be the keynote speaker.
The observance will include the dedication of the third and final phase of construction on the Veterans Walk of Honor, which features 6,000 black granite bricks, each one inscribed with the name and branch of service inscribed in silver letters.
The dedication marks the end of a project that began in 2001, when the Elizabethton City Council adopted a resolution to establish the Elizabethton/Carter County War Memorial Committee and authorized fundraising activities to defray the construction costs on city-owned land. The committee worked through four different phases of construction, beginning with the War Memorial and then through three phases of the Walk of Honor.
Labor was provided by the Community Service Group from the Carter County Annex of the Northeast Correctional Center. The Elizabethton architectural firm of Reedy and Sykes provided the designs.
Veterans Day also will be observed at the following events:
- A Veterans Day rally will be held at 7 p.m. Friday at the National Guard Armory in Erwin.
The rally will include a program presented by the Unicoi County High School ROTC. Musical entertainment also will be provided by Janice Johnson, Kristen Allen and Allen Foster, and Roe is scheduled to be in attendance.
Concessions will be available and donations will be accepted with all proceeds going to support the general upkeep of and future improvements to the Unicoi County Veterans Memorial Park.
Bill Gaines, one of the event’s organizers, said the people of Unicoi County have worked together in recent years to be able to honor its veterans with an outstanding park. Donations will be accepted, but the event is free and the public is invited to attend. For more information, call Gaines at 341-3022.
- ETSU’s Department of Military Science, Student Veterans Association and Veterans Affairs Standing Committee will hold a public ceremony at 10 a.m. Friday to honor those who have served their country through military service.
The event will be held at the Veterans Memorial in front of Memorial Hall (Brooks Gymnasium) and feature the ETSU Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps cadets laying a wreath while “Taps” is played.
Fred Sauceman, executive assistant to the president for University Relations, will offer remarks.
For more information, call ETSU’s Department of Military Science, 439-4269.
- The Unicoi County Veterans Memorial Committee will host a Veterans Day observance at 2 p.m. Nov. 13 at the Unicoi County Veterans Memorial Park.
Committee Chairman Bill Hensley said organizers are planning a special tribute to World War II veterans. The event will include musical entertainment and will include presentations by Terry Haynes, Craig Shelton and Russell Brackins. Refreshments will be provided by the local American Legion post.
- The staff of the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Mountain Home, will honor veterans with a program at 2 p.m. Thursday at the new Conference Center in the main hospital (Building 200), Room A061. The program’s keynote speaker will be retired Col. Mike Johnson, commander of Science Hill High School’s JROTC. The Posting of Colors will be done by the JROTC and the national anthem will be sung by Cadet Kelsie Parshall.
The public is invited to attend the ceremony.
- Both Johnson City and Kingsport Texas Roadhouse restaurants invite veterans from across the area to enjoy a free lunch from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. Friday.
All veterans, including all active, retired or former U.S. military, can choose one of 10 entrees, including a 6-ounce sirloin and two made-from-scratch sides, plus a choice of any Coca-Cola product, sweet tea/ice tea or coffee during lunch. Proof of service includes military or VA card, or discharge papers.
Texas Roadhouse is located at 808 N. Roan St. in Johnson City and at 1221 E. Stone Drive in Kingsport.
- The Butler Ruritan will honor veterans with a free lunch from 11:30 a.m until 2:30 p.m. Friday.
The menu will include smoked ham, potatoes, corn, salad, roll, dessert and a drink. Guests of veterans also may enjoy the complete meal for a $6 donation. Butler Ruritan is located above the Butler Fire Department on Piercetown Road. To reserve a time to enjoy a meal or for more information, call 768-2432, 768-3159 or 768-1818.
- Science Hill High School will host a Veterans Day Ceremony at 10 a.m. Friday in the SHHS gymnasium.
Retired Army Col. Joe Windham, Colonel will be the keynote speaker. Windham serves at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center as a health systems specialist. Immediately following the ceremony, there will be a reception in honor of Windham in the JROTC classroom. For additional information, call 232-2190.
- The American Red Cross is asking people to give blood or platelets this Veterans Day weekend to honor those who have served their country from 12:30-5:30 p.m. on Friday in Erwin at First Christian Church, 312 S. Main St.
Anyone donating can sign a card and include a personal message that will become part of the annual American Red Cross Holiday Mail for Heroes campaign. All presenting donors will receive an American Red Cross T-shirt. For an appointment, call the Red Cross at 202-5619.
- Boone Dam Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4933 will present military honors at 11 a.m. Friday at the flag pole at the U.S. National Cemetery at Mountain Home. For information, call the office at 979-3535.