An emotional crowd of veterans from
World War II, Korea, Vietnam and peacetime service
as well as family members listen attentively to
those who spoke at the first annual "A Day of
Remembrance" held at the downtown park in
McKenzie's downtown park resembled the scene of a family
reunion with every age from toddlers to seniors
represented at the City's first annual "A Day of
Remembrance" Memorial Day event. Missed was Mayor Patty
Edwards who is recovering from a bout of ill health.
McKenzie National Guard Unit Company A(-), 230th
Engineer Battalion provided the color guard for the
event. Specialist Beret Felleson and Sergeant Mike Ilco,
under the direction of Training NCO Sergeant Spiro
Roditis, posted the United States and Tennessee flags
while veterans and family members looked on with
City Clerk Dana Deem, himself a retired Air Force
veteran, welcomed veterans and guests and highlighted
Carroll County's sacrifices in each war since the Civil
War, in which 116 Carroll County soldiers lost their
lives, with both Union and Confederate soldiers
represented in that number.
While the first Memorial Day was instituted after the
Civil War to honor the sacrifice of those who fought and
died on our nation's soil, Carroll County's
contributions to the nation's war efforts actually began
15 years earlier when 68 soldiers from Carroll County
died in the Mexican War, an effort that brought Texas
and all the present-day Southwestern states into the
Carroll County's total sacrifice totals 328 men lost in
wars throughout the years from 1846 to present as
* Mexican War (1846-48) - 68
* Civil War (1861-65) - 116
* Spanish-American War (1898) - 1
* World War I (1917-1919) - 41
* World War II (1941-45) - 77
* Korean War (1950-53) - 12
* Vietnam Conflict (1964-73) - 13
Mr. Wade Allen, Pastor of the Pentecostal Faith Church
of God and a McKenzie City Council Representative,
offered the invocation, his petition reflecting both the
uncertainty of America's current conflict and the
principles that make the United States the greatest
country in the world:
"May we have grateful patriotism... rooted in the
bedrock of gratitude with deep devotion to the
institutions and high ideals for which our country's
flag is an emblem. Help us to consecrate ourselves to
the great heritage of freedom... Inspire all of our
people to hold sacred this glorious heritage. Keep us
from strife, and may we live together in unity. Bless
the president of our country; give him your wisdom and
strength. Be with all those in power... We ask your
blessing upon our men and women in the military... may
the horrors of war soon pass forever from the earth..."
State Representative Mark Maddox, whose unwavering
respect for veterans led him to become one of the
founders of the event, was on hand to dedicate the
dogwood tree planted in honor of "our veterans, past,
present and future" as the plaque reads that was placed
in front of the young tree. In years to come, the pink
dogwood will contrast with white dogwoods in the park as
a distinctive reminder of the sacrifice of veterans.
That sacrifice extends to the families of veterans as
well, Representative Maddox noted. "Some sacrificed
everything. They did not come home, but remain forever
young in the memories of their loved ones and forever
heroes to the rest of us."
To the veterans who made it home - "Whether you rode a
Pacific wave, crossed an Italian mountain, outlasted a
North Atlantic storm, endured a German winter, stormed a
French beach, survived North African sand, hustled up a
Korean hill, sweltered in a Vietnamese jungle, crossed a
Persian Gulf desert, or persisted through loneliness,
boredom and depression in the states" - Representative
Maddox said, "thank you."
He challenged those who look upon the pink blossoms of
the dogwood to remember "freedom is not free and it
never will be."
"We dedicate this tree to the memories of those who gave
all. We dedicate ourselves to preserving the land they
fought to save. We will not forget," he concluded.
The day was made more special by the presence of the
Carroll County RSVP Choir whose rendition of "The Battle
Hymn of the Republic" and, later in the ceremony,
"America the Beautiful" paid tribute to those who fought
in battles throughout history to make possible the
beautiful and great country of the United States.
John Kermit Laughrey, a McKenzie High School Freshman
and grandson of Kermit Holland, a veteran of both World
War II and the Korean War, appeared dressed as Abraham
Lincoln to perform the Gettysburg Address, its message
as fresh today as when it was delivered 139 years ago in
dedication of the Civil War cemetery in Gettysburg,
Pennsylvania: "... we cannot dedicate. . .we cannot
consecrate. . . we cannot hallow this ground. The brave
men, living and dead, who struggled here have
consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or
detract. The world will little note, nor long remember,
what we say here, but it can never forget what they did
John Kermit Laughrey recites the
"It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here
to the unfinished work which they who fought here have
thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be
here dedicated to the great task remaining before us. .
.that from these honored dead we take increased devotion
to that cause for which they gave the last full measure
of devotion. . . that we here highly resolve that these
dead shall not have died in vain. . . that this nation,
under God, shall have a new birth of freedom. . . and
that government of the people. . .by the people. . .for
the people. . . shall not perish from the earth."
Mrs. Sybil King of McKenzie - who was stationed at Pearl
Harbor with her husband Chandler King when Japanese
kamikaze pilots made their ill-fated attempt to bring
America to her knees - read the emotional poem, "Just a
Common Soldier" by A. Lawrence Vaincourt. The poem hails
aging soldiers who, once home from war, "lived an
ordinary and quite uneventful life. Held a job and
raised a family, quietly going his own way..." leading
one to realize that we pass unsung heroes every day on
the streets and in the shops of our own towns, their
stories of true courage and sacrifice giving way to
relentless time as their numbers decrease with the
passage of years since they served.
Danny Bobo introduced the guest speaker, his father,
Vernon Bobo of Trezevant, whose exploits during World
War II earned the silver star, two bronze stars and four
Mr. Vernon Bobo recounts his
experiences as a soldier on the French
battlefields during World War II.
He recalled twin brothers, Thomas and James Myrick
from McKenzie, as well as Gene Brockman, a friend from
Trezevant, who were among many who sailed to England and
on to France, arriving just 12 days after the June 6,
1944 invasion of the beach at Normandy by American,
British and Canadian troops.
On June 7, the Bobos' first child, Sandra, was born. She
would be 11 months ago before her father would set eyes
In France, while troops were massing on both sides of
the conflict, one of the Myrick twins took ill with
pneumonia. While he was recuperating in England, his
brother was killed by enemy fire. It was September by
the time the surviving twin rejoined his unit in
Luxembourg. "Very soon, he was killed also," Bobo said.
Gene Brockman had been wounded on the first day of
battle. "He was picked up on the battlefield by the
Germans and died ten days later in a German hospital,"
Bobo related. During the first eight days of combat, the regiment lost 800
men and 75 officers. "It seemed like not a matter of
getting killed but when," he said.
He recounted the nearly impenetrable hedgerows formed by
mounds of dirt, like earthen fences, atop which grew
thick hedges. As time went by, the men fighting
alongside him against the hedgerow-protected German
forces kept changing as replacement troops took the
place of those killed. In the first 33 days of fighting,
the men could not recall being able to bathe or change
Other veterans in the audience were familiar with the
terrain and conditions of which Mr. Bobo spoke. Present
was former World War II P.O.W. Dwayne Pearson of
Huntingdon, a hero by any standard, and other World War
II veterans such as Everett McBride, Dr. N.J. Headden,
Milton Strayhorn, Dr. Smith and Al Wainscott. Veterans
of the Korean War like hometown hero Bailey Wrinkle as
well as Vietnam veterans Darrell McCadams Tom Nolen and
Assistant Police Chief Bobby Pate were also present.
Many other veterans, all important, attended the event.
Jill Holland of McKenzie took advantage of the
opportunity provided for those in the audience to share
memories of loved ones lost in war. Though little is
known of the life of her great-great-grandfather Thomas
Larkin Harris, his last will and testament reveals his
closest kin was his young daughter, Mary. Only months
after the will was written, Larkin was killed in battle
at Shiloh, his remains among the 727 bodies interred in
the largest mass grave at Shiloh in which some bodies
are stacked seven deep.
She spoke as well of her uncle, Harris Collier, who
graduated from McKenzie High School and played football
for two years at Vanderbilt University before joining
the Air Corps, rising to the rank of Captain as a test
pilot stationed at Patterson Field in Ohio. He was a
passenger in a bomber that crashed in Ohio, making him
the third Vanderbilt football player killed during World
Mrs. Jane Cole shared her growing years in West Virginia
that were marked by the patriotic service of her four
brothers. When she was eight years old, two of them
joined the Marines with one killed at the tender age of
19. The two brothers left at home, ages 18 and 16,
immediately joined the Marines to honor their brother,
however, only the younger and bigger of the two was
retained when it was discovered the two were brothers.
Undaunted, the 18-year-old joined the Army, and both
younger brothers served in the Korean War. "My childhood
was a patriotic one," said Mrs. Cole, a member of the
RSVP Choir. "That was our life; waiting for the war to
Army veteran Henry Carter recites
the poem, "Freedom is not Free."
Retired Army veteran Henry Carter read "Freedom Is
Not Free" by Maj. Kelly Strong as the ceremony neared
its end. The poem recounts the great sacrifices paid
over many years to retain the values and freedom enjoyed
I watched the flag pass by one day, it fluttered in the
A young man in uniform saluted it, and then he stood at
I looked at him in uniform -- so young, so tall, so
With hair cut square and eyes alert, he'd stand out in
I thought, how many men like him had fallen through the
How many died on foreign soil?
How many mothers' tears?
How many pilots' planes shot down?
How many died at sea?
How many foxholes were soldiers' graves?
No, freedom is not free.
I heard the sound of taps one night, when everything was
I listened to the bugler play and felt a sudden chill.
I wondered just how many times that taps had meant
When a flag had draped a coffin of a brother or a
I thought of all the children, of mothers and the wives
Of fathers, sons and husbands, with interrupted lives.
I thought about a graveyard at the bottom of the sea,
Of unmarked graves in Arlington.
No, freedom is not free.
Korean War veteran Bailey Wrinkle was joined by retired
Air Force veterans Donna Sellers and Tan Gee Deem in
placing a wreath at the war memorial, the path upon
which they walked lined with memorials to veterans.
The Carroll County RSVP Choir was a wonderful
addition to the memorial service.
In the benediction, Pastor Allen expressed the hope
of a nation in quoting John 16:33: "In the world ye
shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have
overcome the world."
"Give us this peace, I pray," petitioned the Reverend.
Following the retirement of the colors by the color
guard, many present lingered to share the beautiful
morning and lasting sentiment of grateful appreciation
for those who served to keep America free.