Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Opinion

March 21, 2014

GARY'S WORLD: One of the few and the proud

CROSSVILLE — There are many people you meet in your lifetime and many lessons can be learned from those people.

It was through one such person who I met here in Crossville about 10 years ago that taught me one person really can make a difference in the world. I'm talking about my friend Ron "Scooter" Dyer.

His nickname was "Scooter" because of his love of motorcycles and riding them throughout his life.

Ron was a U.S. Marine and a Vietnam veteran and proud of it. He proudly served his country and like many Vietnam veterans came back to the U.S. without a thank you. For years he battled demons in his life, including PTSD and many other issues. Many, but not all, Vietnam veterans had problems like this.

Ron eventually overcame a lot of those problems and learned how to live with them. He also helped a lot of his brothers and fellow Vietnam veterans do the same.

I was covering Veterans Day ceremonies in Crossville in 2004 when I first met Ron. He along with a handful of other Vietnam vets attended the ceremony. It was a bitterly cold and grey-skied, breezy day. During the ceremony there were several speakers and community leaders who thanked veterans for their service.

While many wars were mentioned and the veterans who served in them were thanked by the various speakers, it stuck out to me that Vietnam veterans were not mentioned during that ceremony. I don't think it was intentional, but it just happened that day. At the end of the ceremony the group prayed for our military and those who were fighting in Iraq, the newest war our country was involved in.

As I looked around I saw this tall, skinny, gray-haired man, standing there with his head bowed, praying, holding his hat, wearing his jeans, black Vietnam veteran U.S. Marines T-shirt, boots and leather biker vest with several patches, pins and military emblems. Among those were several Vietnam veteran emblems and the famous POW-MIA "You will not be forgotten" logo badge.

The image was striking and only lasted for about 30 seconds, but I snapped the picture of the man praying. Shortly after, when the ceremony ended, I went over to the man and introduced myself, thanked him for his service and asked him his name.

I told him I was from the newspaper and I had taken his picture and that I might use it in the paper.

"You want my name?" he asked as he looked around.

It was Ron Dyer. He was shocked. First, because I thanked him for his service and second because I took his picture and was asking his name.

"You took my picture? Why me?" he asked as he laughed.

I told him the image just captured the moment and sincerity of the day so well.

After it was published in the paper, he came up to the Chronicle office and thanked me for using the photo.

He said, "The Vietnam veterans weren't even mentioned, but that picture said a lot."

After that, I would occasionally see Ron around in town and at different veterans events and he would call me the newspaper man. We became friends. In 2007 I ran into Ron in town and he said he wanted to talk to me. He told me he and some of his friends were planning a big event to honor Vietnam veterans and welcome them home.

He had the idea of having a Welcome Home celebration in Crossville and wanted to make it an official holiday.

Ron said after taking a trip to Washington, D.C. and visiting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, he felt like more needed to be done.

"The Vietnam vets were never welcomed home so that's what I want to do with this celebration. Get the vets together, have music and a parade, let them meet and talk with each other and welcome them home," Ron said.

I told him I would be happy to come to the event.

Ron had the idea of a having a day to welcome home and honor Vietnam vets. He and a friend, Dann Dunham, and the Cumberland County Vietnam Vets began pursuing the idea furiously.

At the 2008 Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans celebration, Crossville Mayor J.H. Graham III told me that Ron "Scooter" Dyer and Dann Dunham came to him in the summer of 2007 and said they wanted to set aside March 28-29 to honor the Vietnam veterans officially in Crossville.

The city of Crossville, then Cumberland County and ultimately the state followed suit and former Gov. Phil Bredesen proclaimed March 29 Vietnam Veterans Day. It has been celebrated as such since in Tennessee and several states have followed. President Barack Obama declared March 29, 2012 Vietnam Veterans Day.

It all started here in Crossville.

A trip to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. was one of the things that prompted Ron to figure out a way to honor his fellow veterans.

"That trip was so moving. After that I knew I had to do something," Dyer said. "I'm glad to be a part of it."

I covered each and every one of the Welcome Home events that were in Crossville.

Ron even talked me into riding on the back of his Harley in 2009 for the Veterans Thunder motorcycle benefit ride to South Pittsburg, TN. It was an unforgettable trip and a fundraiser to go towards the Welcome Home celebration.

I met him up at the Waffle House one day with another Vietnam Veteran friend of his, Larry Bates, "Tin Man." We talked about that Veterans Thunder ride and Tin Man, who was nicknamed such by Ron because he was forced to wear metal braces and use crutches, told me that Ron was his hero.

He said the Welcome Home celebration and the planning for it and Vietnam Veterans Day gave him a reason to live. There were many others who felt the same.

I can honestly say there were thousands of veterans and their families whose lives were touched through the efforts of Ron and his many friends and fellow veterans who helped him along the way in the planning of those events.

Many have said that Welcome Home celebration was long overdue and was a big step in the healing process. It and Vietnam Veterans Day was started by a man who had a vision and built on it with his friends and fellow veterans. From there it grew and grew.

Ron passed away earlier this week after a long, painful battle with cancer. His obituary can be found in this issue of the Chronicle. I know he will be missed by so many friends, fellow Marines, veterans and his family. I will miss his humor and his passion for fellow veterans and love of his country.

All I can say is thank you and Welcome Home my friend.

• • •

Gary Nelson is a Crossville Chronicle staffwriter. His column is published each Friday. He may be reached at gnelson@crossville-chronicle.com.

1
Text Only
Opinion
  • We the People: The last dance

    Charlie Hayden’s last recording session with his early partner, Keith Jarrett, was in 2007.  The songs they played were mostly melancholy.  The second album coming from that session includes Weil’s “My Ship” and Porter’s “Every Time We Say Goodbye.” The dark ballad “Goodbye,” by Gordon Jenkins, was the final track.

    July 22, 2014

  • Lion and the Lamb: Living in a pressure cooker

    The Gaza Strip, a small Palestinian territory about the size of Washington, D.C., has been in the news almost every day.  Its key location at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea has attracted a number of occupying powers over the years, and it has  been at the center of much Middle East history.

    July 22, 2014

  • Tidbits: The excitement of election day

    On March 12, 1996, there were 427,183 votes cast in the presidential primary election. Among those votes was mine, the first vote I cast in an election, just two days after my 18th birthday.

    July 21, 2014

  • Raising the minimum wage

    My first job from which FICA was withheld was a minimum wage job, seventy-five cents an hour. And yes, even then no one could live on that little money. However, I was a high schooler living at home where my father provided room and board. The job gave me pocket money to buy gasoline, to take my girlfriend out for movies and burgers, and to buy tickets for baseball games.

    July 21, 2014

  • Lion and the Lamb: Children on the move

    The news this past week has focused on the humanitarian crisis developing on our southern border. Thousands of unaccompanied children from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras seeking to escape from the violence, human trafficking and extreme poverty in their countries have been entering the United States.

    July 15, 2014

  • We the People: Memo to gun rights groups

    The recent incident in California helps us understand why we cannot rely on mental health services alone to solve the problem of gun violence.

    July 15, 2014

  • Tidbits: Make the best of your road trip

    I didn’t care for road trips when I was young. It was so confining to have to sit in the back seat, staring out the window for hour after hour, hayfield after hayfield. And when you’re a kid, time doesn’t pass like it does when you get a little older. Just the trip from Jamestown, TN, to Crossville, roughly 30 miles, felt like an eternity!

    July 14, 2014

  • Stumptalk: Biased climate agenda will cost trillions

    For anyone who has been educated in the history of science and scientific method, this whole issue of “Global Warming” or “Climate Change” is an embarrassing and painful exercise.

    July 14, 2014

  • Lion and the Lamb: Time for an oil change

    The land of Iraq, earlier known as Mesopotamia, has a long history going back to Neanderthal times some 60,000 years ago. Later, around 10,000 years ago, it became the site for some of the most important developments in human history: the invention of the wheel, planting of cereal crops, the development of cursive script, mathematics, astronomy and agriculture. Today it is recognized as one of the cradles of civilization.

    July 8, 2014

  • We the People: American women, be informed and vote

    Voting for today’s Republican Party and its Tea Party members, means you are voting against more than most realize.  This is especially true for women.

    July 8, 2014

Marketplace Marquee
Parade
Must Read
Section Teases
Seasonal Content
AP Video
Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming 13 Struck by Lightning on Calif. Beach Baseball Hall of Famers Inducted Israel, Hamas Trade Fire Despite Truce in Gaza Italy's Nibali Set to Win First Tour De France Raw: Shipwrecked Concordia Completes Last Voyage Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge From Nest Raw: Massive Dust Storm Covers Phoenix 12-hour Cease-fire in Gaza Fighting Begins Raw: Bolivian Dancers Attempt to Break Record Raw: Israel, Palestine Supporters Rally in US Raw: Air Algerie Flight 5017 Wreckage Virginia Governor Tours Tornado Aftermath Judge Faces Heat Over Offer to Help Migrant Kids Kangaroo Goes Missing in Oklahoma More M17 Bodies Return, Sanctions on Russia Grow Raw: Deadly Tornado Hits Virginia Campground Ohio State Marching Band Chief Fired After Probe Raw: Big Rig Stuck in Illinois Swamp
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Weather Radar
2014 Readers' Choice
Graduation 2014