Greeson: Let's keep their memory forever Chattanooga Strong

Greeson: Let's keep their memory forever Chattanooga Strong

May 9th, 2017 by Jay Greeson in Opinion Columns

A mural for five fallen servicemen killed in attacks on July 16, 2015 is on a building on McCallie Avenue.

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

Jay Greeson

Jay Greeson

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

How did you spend your Sunday?

Church? Playing with the kids? Nice meal with family?

Me, too.

You know where you should have been, though? At Ross's Landing. There, in the sunshine, were some familiar names like Fleischmann, Coppinger and Berke, along with a collection of true heroes and the families that are living with the ultimate sacrifice.

I wish I had gone.

Sunday, the gaggle of elected officials, some sharp-dressed military folks and a host of others stood and remembered two of the five servicemen who were killed in the attacks of July 16, 2015.

Marine Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan and Staff Sgt. David Wyatt were posthumously awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal, the highest noncombat award given to that branch. According to the Navy and Marines Corps award manual, the medal is given for heroic efforts that are clearly made in life-threatening risks of bravery.

Military folks deal in the highest realm of bravery.

I marvel at the athletic gifts and powers of, say, basketball's LeBron James. He does things with a basketball and a goal — a game that all of us have at least tried — that most of us can't imagine.

Similarly, folks who put on a uniform and pick up a weapon so we can live in freedom measure bravery in another order of magnitude.

In the military, bravery is mandate. It's a code. Award-winning bravery, by military standards, is something most of us can't know. But we can all respect it.

And Sunday, Sullivan's parents, Jerry and Betty, and Wyatt's wife, Lorri, were there to acknowledge the level of courage and heroism their loved ones showed.

"It's a great honor and we're humbled by it," Jerry Sullivan told military reporter Lance Cpl. Niles Lee at the event. "It's something you don't want to receive, but it's good to have him recognized for the actions he took that day."

Sullivan and Wyatt, according to reports, saved lives while sacrificing their own.

They were killed along with Sgt. Carson Holmquist, Lance Cpl. Skip Wells and Petty Officer 2nd Class Randall Smith when a madman attacked us here almost 22 months ago.

"I hope this does bring a little closure to the families," Rep. Chuck Fleischmann told Lee at the event. "But I also hope it forever honors and serves the memories of these fallen heroes — and they are heroes to America."

We showed our spirit in the days, weeks and months after the attack. Jerry Sullivan praised the support our community has offered his family, and that's great.

But personally, I wished I had been there Sunday. For their families. For their legacy. And mainly, because they — like all of their fallen brothers in the military — are always there for us.

Let's hope our memories of those heroes are forever Chattanooga Strong.

Contact Jay Greeson at jgreeson@timesfreepress.com and 423-757-6343.

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