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.
Oh heavenly father creator of all mankind, we thank you so very much for all the good and perfect gifts that you have given us.
We thank you for the gift of this beautiful evening. We thank you so very much for this wonderful land that we have, that we can worship you and your son freely. Thank you for the opportunity that you’ve given us to do that. Oh heavenly father. I thank you so very much for the sacrifices that been made by brave men and brave women, their families, and their loved ones so that we can enjoy these freedoms.
Lord bless this evening, bless all the families whose relatives are still missing! Lord, I pray your blessings and healing for them all. Bless the time that we spend together in Jesus name we pray. Amen!
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.
Colonel Tom Denney currently resides in Clarksville, Tennessee, with his wife, Sandra. They recently wrote celebrated 53 years of marriage. They have one son Colonel (Ret) Jay Denney and his wife, Teresa, who have two children.
He earned collegiate degrees, BS and him be a, from Auburn University, along with an advanced manage
ment certificate from Emory University School of Business in Atlanta, Georgia. He completed military schooling attending the the Air War College, the Army’s Command and Staff College, the Army Aviation School (fixed an artery), and all branch level schools.
During his military career. Col. Denney served 3 tours in Vietnam as a pilot/commander. The first was with the 18th Aviation Company in 1962, the 1st Air Cavalry Division (Air Mobile) in 1967-68, and the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) in 1971-72. In 1976, he was tasked up on the Army’s attack helicopter Battalion, which is now composed of 3 attack battalions were 2 of them assigned to the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault).
During his 30+ years of service, Denney served in command positions at every level from Lieutenant to Col. with the last being as the Garrison commander, Fort Campbell, Kentucky. He is a master Army aviator with ratings in both fixed and rotary aircraft.
His secondary specialty was personnel, where he served in numerous assignments at all levels.
After retirement, Denney was employed as a sales consultant/manager for Ed Groves Oldsmobile Cadillac, Inc. He is currently Vice President/General Manager for Coldwell Banker Conroy Marable & Holleman.
He has also been very active in community affairs serving on numerous charity organizations boards educational boards and with numerous military groups.
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.
[wpaudio url=”https://www.clarksvilleonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/TomDenney.mp3″ dl=”0″ text=”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.
November 20th 1969
Lance Corporal James A. Benton
April 27th 1967
Specialist 4th Class Dwight A. Bremmer
December 14th 1971
Specialist 4th Class James A. Brown
August 12, 1970
Lieutenant Colonel Donald F. Casey
June 23rd 1968
Sergeant Echol W. Coalston Jr.
January 21st 1968
Corporal James B. Conway
April 13th 1966
1st Lieutenant Larry W. Cotton
March 9th 1970
Lieutenant Commander Carroll O. Crain Jr.
March 8th 1967
Lance Corporal Richard H. Dallas
April 27th 1967
Private First Class Joe L. Delong
May 18th 1967
Specialist 4th Class Billy J. Ellis
January 3rd 1968
Sergeant Donald P. Gervais
May 1st 1968
1st Lieutenant Gary A. Glandon
May 26th 1966
Seaman Apprentice Thomas A. Goetsch
September 17, 1972
Captain Lucius L. Heiskell
February 6th 1967
Specialist 4th Class Jerry A. Hiemer
November 11th 1965
Private First Class James D. Hunter
October 29th 1968
Major Dale A. Johnson
November 27th 1966
1st Lieutenant Richard C. Lannom
Union City, TN
March 1st 1968
Petty Officer 1st Class James C. Newman Jr.
February 6th 1968
Sergeant Calvin A. Norris
November 3rd 1970
Major Lawerence B. Tatum
September 10th 1966
Lieutenant Colonel James A. Treece
October 7th 1966
1st Lieutenant John T. Welshan
Oak Ridge, TN
March 3rd 1968
Colonel David R. Williams
April 1st 1967
Captain William C. Woods Jr.
September 2nd 1972
Staff Sergeant Lawerence Woods
October 24th 1964
Accounted for in the last year
Major Howard V. Andre Jr.
July 8th 1969
Captain William T. McPhail
May 22nd 1968