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Clarksville, TN – It is a solemn occasion when a nation gathers together to honor its soldiers, those who lived to come home, but even more importantly those who did not. No remains were returned during the previous year, that leaves 30 remaining missing POW/MIA’s from the State of Tennessee. Each one was honored in a ceremony held in front of the William O. Beach Civic Center at Veterans Plaza in Clarksville Tennessee on Sunday evening.
The Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 396 holds this Memorial Day Vigil each year to remember the men and women who were left behind in Vietnam when American forces left that country in 1975.The Local vigil was first held in 1989 the same year that Chapter 396 was chartered. They consider it an honored duty to call the roll each year so that these lost bothers and sisters are not forgotten. The first reading contained 43 names on the roster, since then 13 remains have been returned or located. This was their 23rd year performing this solemn duty.
The colors were posted as an honor guard of Montgomery Central High School JROTC. Then a single chair representing all of the POW/MIA’s nationwide was placed in a position of honor before the audience. The Pledge of Allegiance was recited, and a moment of silence was held.
Then Rev. Scott Witt delivered the invocation.
The guest speaker for this year was U.S. Army Col. (Ret) Tom Denney. Also on hand were Montgomery County Mayor Carolyn Bowers, and her Chief of Staff, Phil Harpel, Clarksville City Mayor Kim McMillan, and her Chief of Staff Bill Harpel, Tennessee State Representative Joe Pitts, Montgomery County Trustee Brenda Radford, Clarksville City Councilman Geno Grubbs, Clarksville City Councilwoman Kaye Jones, and several Gold Star Wives.
“We have with us, members of a very special group some of the Gold Star Wives setting in the audience. We are very appreciative of them and their losses, and we appreciate the message that they carry forward,” said Emcee Gary Ezell.
Ezell spoke about the special presentation of a wall containing the name of the POW/MIAs from Clarksville, which was provided by A.J. Perrone. “He is a very staunch supporter of the POW/MIA issue. We’re very very proud of him and all that he does,” he said. Ezell continued, “He has with him representatives of two groups the Vietnam Veterans Motorcycle Club and the Legacy Motorcycle Club.”
Next Ezell introduced Colonel Tom Denney.
Denney opened with a joke. “Everybody’s got a Chief of Staff here tonight, except for me and Joe Pitts,” Denney said. “Joe, what happened to us, buddy,” He asked. “Ah, we drew the short straw,” responded Pitts. “That’s what happens when you run out of people to play with,” concluded Denney. He then quipped, “He (Gary Ezell) mentioned that I was involved in a lot of affairs in Clarksville. I would like to mention that’s business affairs.”
Then Denney moved on to his remarks which we are including in full.Col. Tom Denney - Memorial Day Remarks
After Denney finished Gary Ezell returned to the podium and began honoring the POW/MIA’s from Tennessee.
During the ceremony, The thirty names were slowly read aloud, the bell pealed, as someone in the background intoned “Absent, but not forgotten.” The flame was lit. The empty chair, draped with a POW/MIA shirt and a placard, identifying the missing solider that it represented, was carried forward by a Montgomery Central JROTC, cadet who once it was in place stepped up before it, and rendered a silent salute.
At the end of the ceremony the final two chairs representing Maj. Howard V. Andre Jr from Memphis Tennessee, and the chair for Capt. William T. McPhail of Chattanooga Tennesse were carried up by the cadets and saluted. Then a member of the Vietnam Veterans of America stepped forward, saluted the chair, and then solemnly removed it to be retired.
Below are the names of the missing Tennesseans. We offer our fervent hope that they too all find their way home once more.
1st Lieutenant John R. Baldridge Jr.
Lance Corporal James A. Benton
Specialist 4th Class Dwight A. Bremmer
Specialist 4th Class James A. Brown
Lieutenant Colonel Donald F. Casey
Sergeant Echol W. Coalston Jr.
Corporal James B. Conway
1st Lieutenant Larry W. Cotton
Lieutenant Commander Carroll O. Crain Jr.
Lance Corporal Richard H. Dallas
Private First Class Joe L. Delong
Specialist 4th Class Billy J. Ellis
Sergeant Donald P. Gervais
1st Lieutenant Gary A. Glandon
Seaman Apprentice Thomas A. Goetsch
Captain Lucius L. Heiskell
Specialist 4th Class Jerry A. Hiemer
Private First Class James D. Hunter
Major Dale A. Johnson
1st Lieutenant Richard C. Lannom
Petty Officer 1st Class James C. Newman Jr.
Sergeant Calvin A. Norris
Major Lawerence B. Tatum
Lieutenant Colonel James A. Treece
1st Lieutenant John T. Welshan
Colonel David R. Williams
Captain William C. Woods Jr.
Staff Sergeant Lawerence Woods
Accounted for in the last year
Major Howard V. Andre Jr.
Captain William T. McPhail
Bill Larson is the Creator and former Publisher of Clarksville Online. He is politically and socially active in the community. Bill is a member of the Friends of Dunbar Cave.
You can reach him via telephone at 931-249-0043 or via the email address below.
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