By Heather Mullinix
The Cumberland County Commission voted to ask the state of Tennessee to name a bridge in honor of Sgt. Morgan W. Strader, a U.S. Marine killed in the battle of Fallujah in 2004.
Terry Carter, 6th District commissioner, moved to approve the request to rename the bridge spanning Daddy's Creek on Hwy. 70 E near Crab Orchard the Sgt. Morgan W. Strader Memorial Bridge. The motion was supported by 7th District Commissioner Roy Turner.
Strader was a 2000 graduate of Cumberland County High School where he had been a member of the track team and wrestling squad. He enlisted in the U.S. Marines while still a senior at CCHS and was one of the youngest Marines to earn the rank of sergeant.
Though his enlistment in the Marines ended in July 2004, Strader's grandmother, Estelle Morgan, said at the time he couldn't bear the thought of his unit, the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, returning to Iraq without him. He volunteered to extend his enlistment for a year to be with his men.
He was killed in action Nov. 12, 2004, at the age of 23. Platoon Commander John Jacobs said that, on the day Strader was killed, his unit was near the center of the city when they came under heavy and intense fire from enemy hiding in houses, shops and on rooftops.
When the convoy stopped, the enemy attempted to overtake the soldiers from the rear, but were stopped by Strader's action. As the enemy abandoned the attack and fled into a nearby house, Strader pursued them and once inside, a violent exchange of gunfire occurred, with Strader falling from a fatal wound.
Sgt. Strader was awarded the Purple Heart and the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal. His personal awards also include the Combat Action Ribbon, Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon and National Defense Service Medal.
The request came from Andrew J. Benson, a retired U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer who lives in the Crab Orchard area and is a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, The Patriot Guard and Cumberland County Fire Department. He told the panel the naming of the bridge would be a fitting tribute, and noted Strader is buried in the Hebbertsburg Cemetery near Crab Orchard.
Harry Sabine, 1st District Commissioner, said, "As a fellow Marine, I would not disagree with anything in the resolution, but I was thinking that at some point the building and grounds committee was going to set some policy on how we went about naming things. We've named a couple of bridges, and I don't if anything has happened or not on that. My question is if we shouldn't have some kind of standard or a separate committee."
Joe Koester, 5th District commissioner, agreed, saying, "We do a lot of things, and we do them ad hoc and we have no procedure. In my limited experience, it goes across several areas of the county. We need a policy that says if something like this comes up and meets the criteria, building and grounds approves it. There ought to be something that we would use as a measuring stick."
Carter noted the state had final authority on the name of the bridge. Carmin Lynch, 9th District commissioner, suggested Koester write a policy and bring it to the building and grounds committee for consideration.
"I believe strongly enough in establishing policy for various things that I will take this on," Koester said. "I think you'll be hearing more from me on other things. But I totally agree with this. This bridge needs to be named for him and I support it. I hope we can standardize it and continue to name things for people who give their lives to our country."
The motion was unanimously approved and will be forwarded to the Tennessee General Assembly for further action.
In other business, the commission approved the following:
•Accepted an offer of $700 by U.S. Assets, Inc. to purchase 14 lots currently owned by Cumberland County. The lots are all in the Lake Tansi area.
•Approved a resolution to provide $10,000 in matching funds for a $25,000 grant for the Solid Waste Department to use toward the purchase of a fork lift.
•Approved a $2,400 budget amendment to purchase a scanner for the Clerk and Master's office.
•Approved a $34,799 budget amendment in grant funding from the Tennessee Governor's Highway Safety Grant for deputies overtime compensation for impaired driving law enforcement activities.