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Chattanooga National Cemetery grounds workers set up flags on Tuesday in preparation for Veteran's Day festivities Wednesday.
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Andrew Wilson and other Chattanooga National Cemetery grounds workers set up flags Monday in preparation for Veterans Day festivities.

There will be ceremonies, flags and a shared sense of patriotism in Chattanooga today, just like there is every Veterans Day in the Volunteer State, where there are more than 500,000 veterans.

This one might have a more-reverent-than-usual feel to it, though.

A memorial to the five servicemen who were fatally shot during the attacks of July 16 will be unveiled at 3 p.m. in Collegedale's Veterans Memorial Park, and a larger turnout than usual is expected for the annual Veterans Day program.

"I think it's going to be very unique this time," said Collegedale commissioner and Vietnam veteran Phil Garver, a founder of the park.

Garver and another local Vietnam veteran, Larry Johnson, who is planning to attend the annual Veterans Day ceremony at the Chattanooga National Cemetery in the morning, each have noticed more veteran appreciation in the area since the July 16 shootings.

"It seems like since then we've had a lot more people walk up and shake your hand and thank you for serving your country," Johnson said. "That means a lot. When they tell you that, it makes you feel really good."

Silver Star recipient Jesse "Bud" Alley, a Vietnam veteran, will give the keynote speech at the national cemetery event, which begins at 11 a.m. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Vietnam War.

A military speaker will deliver an address at the Collegedale event where the monument will be dedicated, but Garver said the speaker does not want to be identified in advance.

The $25,000 monument to the fallen five arrived on Friday and has been covered in anticipation of Tuesday's unveiling.

The Collegedale Academy will play patriotic music, and Garver added that local politicians are expected to attend, including U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn.

"It's going to be a great, great event for our community to show respect and honor for those who gave their lives," Garver said.

The families of the July 16 victims were invited to the Collegedale ceremony, and Garver is not sure if any of them will be able to come, but he does anticipate that community members who expressed an outpouring of support in the aftermath of the attacks will show up once more.

"When you realize the amazing show of love and appreciation there was in the aftermath, those people who did all that stuff, they're not going to forget that overnight, and now we've got this day of remembrance," Garver said. "I think the awareness of the holiday is heightened tremendously, and that good can come from that."

Tennessee's veteran population is 14th highest in the nation, though Tennessee is only the nation's 17th most populous state.

"When you see a veteran, shake their hand and tell them you appreciate them," Johnson said. "I think that kind of thing has increased a lot more since July 16. I think people are starting to realize the significance of service."

Contact staff writer David Cobb at dcobb@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6249.

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