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 32 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 11 remains have been returned the latest in April of 2010. This was their 21 year performing this solemn duty, and despite of a steady rain during the ceremony, they did not allow it to rush them. 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. Jimmy Terry of delivered the invocation.
The guest speaker for this year was Clarksville Mayor Kim McMillan. Also on hand was Tennessee Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder, State Senator Tim Barnes, State Rep. Joe Pitts and his wife Cindy.
During the ceremony, The thirty two 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.
Mayor McMillan’s Remarks
We are here for a very special humbling purpose, that is to honor those men and women who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for the benefit for all of us, and our country, and our community right here in Clarksville. To honor those who chairs sit empty in the back of the room that will be brought forwards ultimately.
This event has happened every year, I have been here every year, and every year I am more and more humbled and saddened by that fact, but I can also rejoice in knowing that those individuals went down representing what is good and great about each and every one of us and that is community; that is the notion that we are here for a bigger purpose and a bigger cause; that is the protection of the freedoms of our country and the freedoms we all hold so dear.
I am happy to be here as your Mayor, and on behalf of the city council, on behalf of all of the citizens of the City of Clarksville to say to each and every one of you who have served, to those who are related to someone that has served, or who is related to someone who has given their life in that ultimate sacrifice, that we are proud of you, that we relish the opportunity to be here today to tell you how proud we are.
The reason that we have this event every year is for one purpose, and that is so that people will know that those who have given the ultimate sacrifice, those who have gone above and beyond the call of duty will never be forgotten.
And I am here to say that I know I will never forget. And That I will continue to come to ceremonies like this, and ceremonies that we will have tomorrow on Memorial Day to let the families and loved ones of those who have paid the ultimate price know that they have never been forgotten.
I am proud to stand here as the mayor of Clarksville to tell you on behalf of the citizens of Clarksville, on behalf of the City Council, on behalf of every elected official and on behalf of each and every one of you, that we appreciate what you have done, what you continue to do.
Lets all stop for just a moment, and bow our heads and close our eyes and honor with a moment of silence the family of the loved ones that we know yesterday paid that ultimate price. I don’t know if each of you have heard but six members of the 101st did pay that ultimate sacrifice yesterday in Afghanistan, and I think they deserve our enduring loyalty. Lets all stop for a minute in a moment of silence.
I recognize those six individuals and their families, to let each and every one of you know that are here tonight that we in this community, we in the Clarksville community, we in Montgomery county, we know and understand probably better than most across this state the sacrifice that is made by those because of our strong relationship with Fort Campbell. And because of what we see that happens each and every day at Fort Campbell, and because we hear about it, and know about it, and we have friends and family related to people at Fort Campbell.
So because of that I think it is truly poignant and ultimately special that we here in this community can show our enduring gratitude to those that are represented by the chairs that will be brought up here tonight; what it means to each and every one of us to protect our freedoms as they have done. So I hope you will join with me in continuing to remember the sacrifices that have been made and also remember that we must never forget. Thank you!
Below are the names of the missing Tennesseans. We offer our fervent hope that they too all find their way home once more.
Major Howard V. Andre Jr.
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
Captain William T. McPhail
Petty Officer 1st Class James C. Newman Jr.
Sergeant Calvin A. Norris
Specialist 4th Class Marvin E. Phillips
Major Lawerence B. Tatum
Lieutenant Colonel James A. Treece
Major Woodrow W. Vaden
1st Lieutenant John T. Welshan
Colonel David R. Williams
Captain William C. Woods Jr.
Staff Sergeant Lawerence Woods
TopicsCindy Pitts, Joe Pitts, Kim McMillan, Many-Bears Grinder, Montgomery Central High School, POW/MIA, Tennessee Department of Veterans Affairs, Tim Barnes, Vietnam Veterans of America, Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 396
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