Led by retired veterans service officer Dalton Wester at the podium, Memorial Day observers pledge allegiance to the flag, as Lynda Rhymes, standing by Wester, prepares to sing “The Star Spangled Banner.”
An elegy is a lament for the dead. And that was the sentiment underlying the Memorial Day celebration held in front of the Blount County Courthouse Saturday. The service memorialized the deaths of 152 Blount County soldiers in seven named wars since the Civil War: World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Afghanistan. The heart of the ceremony was the reading of the names of those Blount Countians – those sons, husbands, fathers, friends, acquaintances, and neighbors – who died. And remembering the debt they are owed.
Reading the names of the fallen were veterans Lester Hallman, Alton Grigsby, Larry Baker, Dan Turner, Leland Venable, Frank Cannon, and Gary Clements, most involved as officers of local veterans service organizations. At the conclusion of the toll of the dead, a wreath was placed in front of the Blount County Veterans Memorial by veterans Jeff Horn and Jimmie Smith. Rhymes’ choir students sang “Proud to be an American,” and J. B. Pennington High School trumpeters Breanna Smith and Jaylin Baxley, closed the service with the playing of “Taps.”
Guest speaker for the occasion was Captain Bill Hendrickson, United States Navy – retired. The observance was organized by Operation Grateful Heart of Blount County, Lester Hallman, president, with the participation of Disabled American Veterans Chapter 28, American Legion Post 72, and Blount County Memorial Museum. About 80 attended the ceremony according to Donnie Jackson, coordinator for the event.