The project, a gate and archway reflective of the memorial entrance will be constructed on the cemetery corner across from the memorial. Under Secretary of Veterans Affairs for Memorial Affairs Randy Reeves and U.S. Rep. Phil Roe joined Cemetery Director Jeny Walker and memorial Chairwoman Brenda Barnett in making the announcement. The Washington County/Johnson City Veterans Memorial entrance has a metal arch that says “Freedom Is Not Free.”
The cemetery archway will have the same design, but it will say, “Where Heroes Rest.”
Roe said he talked to Reeves about making the visual connection between the memorial and the cemetery, especially given the close proximity of the two.
“By next Memorial Day we’re going to be ready to go,” Roe said. “We’ll have new streetscaping, a new entry way into the VA” cemetery. The city of Johnson City has committed to that part of the project, he said.
Roe was instrumental in the planning and initial phase of the Veterans Memorial.
“This goes back many many years. a lot of people got together and wanted to build a Washington County memorial to not only to our fallen veterans, but to our living veterans,” Roe said. “There’s a huge expansion going on right now, but it didn’t tie into the VA.” That where Reeves came into the picture.
Reeves said he wanted to be at the announcement to not only honor veterans, but also the community “that embraces the service of its veterans and goes out of its way to make sure the veterans who are from here, who gave the ultimate sacrifice, are remembered forever. I wanted to be here to be a part of that. As a veteran myself, I wanted to be a part of remembering those who have given (us) our freedoms.”
While in town, Reeves also took the opportunity to present Walker and her staff with an Excellence Award from the National Cemetery Administration.
“The honor, the love and the remembrance of veterans is always local,” Reeves said. “And it’s always unique to that area you’re in based on the veterans and the people who are there. Here in Johnson City, this community is at the very top of honoring veterans. I mean that sincerely from my heart.”
He said visiting Johnson City was always like “coming home.”
I was able to bring with me the organizational Excellence Award given to the Mountain Home National Cemetery,” Reeves said. “What that means is this cemetery here has met a number of requirements and has scored at the very top of all our national cemeteries. That certificate lets everyone know that they are in the top 5 percent of excellence of all the national cemeteries ...136 national cemeteries across this country. You don’t acheive that alone. It’s an entire team effort,” he said.
Walker said she’s excited about the announcement about the new cemetery entrance and arch.
“It’s fabulous. It’s an opportunity to recognize what’s happening at Mountain Home National Cemetery. It’s an opportunity to recognize our veterans who are buried at the cemetery, who are all heroes in their own way,” Walker said.
The project is expected to be completed by Memorial Day 2019.