By Michael R. Moser
Patriotic red, white and blue fused with lovely fall colors on a warm November morning served as the back drop for a sun-splashed crowed gathered on the courthouse lawn for the annual Veterans Day observance in Crossville.
Again, the Cumberland County Community Band entertained attendees prior to the program with a series of patriotic tunes that included songs of all the service academies, which brought veterans to stand and cheer when their branch of service's song was played.
Noticeable this year was a drop in attendance by members of the "Greatest Generation," World War II vets who are now in their 80s and 90s. According to statistics released by the Veterans Administration (VA), more than 600 WWII era vets are dying each day.
This year's theme from three speakers not only paid the normal tributes to veterans made in years past, but urged citizens to write to their elected officials in support of locating a veterans cemetery in the Crossville area.
Tennessee state Rep. Cameron Sexton told the gathering that Cumberland County is one of four sites now under consideration for the new cemetery. Sexton said considering that the county has the largest number of veterans in the 14-county Upper Cumberland region, at 6,500, it makes sense to locate the new cemetary here.
Sexton said letters should be addressed to elected officials and to the VA office in Nashville.
The address for Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder at the Tennessee Department of Veterans Affairs is 312 Rosa L. Parks Ave., 13th Floor, Nashville, TN 37243.
"We have a lot to be thankful for," Sexton said. "I hope we never forget to be thankful for our veterans and what they have done for us."
He went on to note that there have been 1.9 million purple hearts awarded to those wounded or killed in action, and 3,400 Medals of Honor presented over the years. Sexton said their sacrifice makes it possible for us to celebrate diversity and differences and he expressed a hope that citizens would never let divisiveness prevent Americans finding common ground.
Cumberland County Mayor Kenneth Cary Jr. thanked Sexton for his leadership in the effort to locate a veterans cemetery in the county and then went on to state Americans should always honor and remember those who served, giving up the "best years of their life in service."
He added that some did not live to carry the title of veteran, and that we should always pause to remember them as well.
Crossville Mayor J.H. Graham III also touched on the campaign to locate the proposed veterans cemetery in the county. He noted that the city owns between 230 and 240 acres off Peavine Rd. that it would be willing to consider donating to the VA for the cemetery.
Graham shared his vision of the cemetery, with a memorial, museum or veterans home sharing the property.
In his speech, Graham quoted from his late father, J.H. Graham II, who was a World War II veteran. He told him late in his life that he loved Crossville and America and that it had always been his goal to help protect the country's freedoms and make life better for his family.
"All veterans are like my daddy," Graham said.
He also lauded Brown Elementary after attending a Veterans Day program at the school, and told attendees that the legacy they have left is alive and well at the school.
Emcee Ed Lewis closed the program by reciting Psalm 24:1 and by inviting veterans to another program to be held at the Community Complex later Monday.