published Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

Fallen military honored at Chattanooga National Cemetery's Memorial Day ceremony

Member of Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 203 present the colors during the annual Memorial Day service at the Chattanooga National Cemetery on Monday.
Member of Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 203 present the colors during the annual Memorial Day service at the Chattanooga National Cemetery on Monday.
Photo by Shawn Paik.

Hundreds gathered around the Chattanooga National Cemetery pavilion Monday morning -- yet it was nearly silent.

"Walk the hallowed ground among these final resting places of our nation's best, and you will come to understand that every grave and every marker bears a name," said Harry Carroll, the Veterans of Foreign Wars department commander for Tennessee. "Every name represents a person who was loved by someone, and who loved someone in return."

And the crowd sat solemnly, white headstones stretching out behind them in the sunlight.

As the colors of each veterans' organization were being massed, silent salutes from veterans peppered the crowd.

But when the Choo Choo Chorus began singing a rendition of "God Bless America," the whole crowd stood up, and nearly everybody joined in with the song they knew so well.

The Memorial Day ceremony at the National Cemetery drew people of all ages and walks of life to remember the nation's fallen military service members.

It's a day that's so important that Lewis and Joy Dee Price don't miss a service.

"It's honoring those men and women who allow us to be where we are and do what we do, not only as individuals, but as a country," said Joy Dee Price, her voice tinged with emotion.

Lewis Price said that he joined the Army Active Reserves in 1955, and served six years at Fort Bliss, Texas, as a lieutenant, training soldiers.

  • photo
    The Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 203 Honor Guard perform the gun salute to honor veterans during the annual Memorial Day service at the Chattanooga National Cemetery.
    Photo by Shawn Paik.
    enlarge photo

And Memorial Day is also important to those who haven't served, but are still thankful for what those who served have given up.

"It just seems like nowadays, we don't pay attention to what's important, and these guys right here, the people that are around us, the people that are here today are the reasons that we have so many freedoms that we enjoy," said Michael McGonigle, a 28-year-old local.

"So, it's the least I think I can do to come pay some respects to them today."

Christian McClung, a 21-year-old friend of McGonigle's agreed.

"Just to say thank you, even if it doesn't mean anything. I think it means more to me than anything, just to be able to show my respects and to truly be grateful for all that these veterans have given us," McClung said.

Carroll closed his speech with a challenge to all in attendance to continue their support for veterans.

"Let us be more than determined to see that no man or woman who has served be homeless, unemployed or sick. If we truly want to honor the dead, then we must help the living," Carroll said to applause at the closing of his speech.

"I want to urge everyone to be steadfast in your commitment to the veterans of our nation, and ensure our nation lives up to its obligations."

Contact staff writer Alex Harris at aharris@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6592.

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