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ETSU ROTC cadets get 'meaningful' experience listening to Sen. Crowe, retired Army general

Jonathan Roberts • Nov 8, 2019 at 11:00 PM

For state Sen. Rusty Crowe, Veterans Day is personal, and celebrating it at East Tennessee State University makes it even more significant.

Not only did Sen. Crowe graduate from ETSU in 1974 and serve in the U.S. Army before that, but his uncle, Dewey Crowe, is one of the names memorialized at the university’s veterans memorial.

Unlike the nephew he never met, however, 2nd Lt. Dewey Crowe never returned home from his tour of duty. While engaged in a dogfight over Kiska Island, Dewey Crowe’s P-38 Lightning collided with another P-38 piloted by Maj. Thomas Jackson — killing both men.

And on Friday, Sen. Dewey “Rusty” Crowe was able to eulogize his uncle — the man he’s named after but never met — and speak to the next generation of soldiers at a Veterans Day event at ETSU, a celebration he called “very important.”

“Hopefully he’s (my uncle) looking down,” Sen. Crowe said before the ceremony on Friday. “He was a part of this campus before he went to serve in World War II — you know, one day these kids were mowing their dad’s yard, and the next day they’re learning to fly military aircraft.”

Dewey Crowe, whose plane crashed into the ice-covered waters surrounding the Aleutian Islands on Sept. 14, 1942, was never found. During his speech Friday, Sen. Crowe talked about how his grandfather hoped the son he’d lost would one day find his way home, something that touched Lt. Col. Shawn Dodge, a professor in ETSU’s military science department.

“The personal touch from the senator was amazing,” said Dodge. “It was a pretty personal, heartfelt story. He wasn’t reading from notes, and you could tell it was really from the heart.

Cadets and other attendees also heard from Maj. Gen. Leslie Purser, who shared stories of several of Tennessee’s Medal of Honor recipients and of her time in the service. All of it, Dodge says, just goes to show the university’s ROTC cadets how “meaningful” their service can and will be.

“It gives them something to look forward to — something bigger picture to fight for,” Dodge said, something Crowe echoed.

“It’s very important for us to make sure our younger students understand the value of service,” Crowe said. “People forget why we’re free sometimes, and there’s a whole list of veterans who died (in combat) who were students here.

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