A singer/songwriter from Murphy, North Carolina, has recorded a patriotic song partly inspired by a visit to Chattanooga.
David Eli Grimes, known professionally as Eli Grimes, said the release of "We Never Will Forget" was timed to Memorial Day as a tribute to America's military dead.
In a phone interview, Grimes said he wrote two verses of the song "sitting among the white marble headstones" while visiting Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. A bucket-list trip to visit the grave of Desmond Doss, who is buried at Chattanooga National Cemetery, inspired a third verse.
"I have been a Desmond Doss fan from the get-go," Grimes said.
(READ MORE: Medal of Honor recipient Desmond Doss never carried a weapon)
Doss, a World War II veteran who died in 2006, was the only conscientious objector to receive the Medal of Honor, the U.S. military's highest award for valor. The Hollywood version of his story is told in the 2016 Oscar-winning film "Hacksaw Ridge." Doss settled in Rising Fawn, Georgia, after the war.
(READ MORE: New Mel Gibson-directed movie, 'Hacksaw Ridge,' honors Chattanooga war hero)
Visitors to the Charles H. Coolidge National Medal of Honor Heritage Center in downtown Chattanooga can see a re-creation of the jagged cliffs of the ridge in Okinawa, Japan, where Doss single-handedly rescued 75 of his fellow soldiers under heavy enemy fire.
Simply locating Doss' grave to pay his respects would have been a highlight of Grimes' January trip to Chattanooga, which was already memorable for the weather, said the former Florida resident.
"It was cold, and the wind was blowing," he said.
But while he paused for his wife, Cinda, to make a photo of him standing by Doss' grave, he noticed "up on the hill, a massive flag pole" with a billowing flag at half staff.
"When I saw that flag, I left there and went to the Medal of Honor museum," he said.
There, he saw a favorite quote from Abraham Lincoln painted on a wall: "A nation that does not honor its heroes will not long endure."
His swelling emotions from the day's experiences sparked his creative juices.
"I went straight home and wrote the other verse," he said.
Grimes, 69, never served in the military - "I was too young for Vietnam and too old for the Gulf War" - but the master electrician said he arranged a trip to Basra, Iraq, in 2011 to offer his services after reading news accounts of soldiers being electrocuted by faulty wiring. He said he stayed about six months "with rockets and mortars coming in all the time."
"You can watch TV all you want and see people die, but when you're around that kind of thing, it changes your perspective," he said. "They did it every day. I left there wanting to honor them."
Carl Poston, who volunteers at Chattanooga National Cemetery and the National Medal of Honor Heritage Center, said he remembers Grimes' visit to Chattanooga because Grimes was handing out CDs containing other songs he had written about veterans.
Grimes has since returned to Chattanooga to attend the Armed Forces Day luncheon and meet with Freedom Sings USA, a Chattanooga-based effort that, like Operation Song, pairs veterans with songwriters to help them work through their wartime experiences.
"Eli's a good guy," Poston said by phone. "He's really got his heart in the right place."
Grimes said he has been interested in music since seeing the 1964 Hank Williams movie "Your Cheatin' Heart" when he was a child.
"I aggravated my father until he finally broke down and bought me a guitar," he said. "I've been writing ever since."
He has written more than 50 songs, including "Toy Boy," a tribute to Elvis Presley, another musical influence; "Furrever Friend," advocating for pet adoption; and "Pretty Little Old St. Augustine," an ode to where he lived before moving to Murphy.
Grimes said "We Never Will Forget" will be available for download on Apple Music and iTunes. He said he also has recorded an interview with Wreaths Across America Radio that will be played Monday. Contact Grimes at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact Lisa Denton at email@example.com or 423-757-6281.