Memorial Day, observed on the last Monday in May, has long been set aside as a time for Americans to remember the men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice by laying down their lives in battle to preserve the freedoms that citizens of the United States enjoy.
Like so many towns across the country, Sparta hosted a Memorial Day Program, sponsored by the Veterans Museum of White County and American Legion Post 99 as a way to pay tribute to the fallen soldiers who had once called White County home.
The ceremony, which was held at the Veterans Park on the corner of Bockman Way and North Main Street, included speeches from State Representative Paul Sherrell and Van Hilleary, chief of staff for Congressman John Rose. Both speakers encouraged the large crowd that had gathered to pause to remember the cost of their freedom and to protect the rights they have been given for future generations.
The ceremony also included songs by Sparta native and Vietnam veteran Gene Hodge. In addition, Ron Lapierre, commander of American Legion Post 99, read a script that emphasized the importance of keeping the tradition of Memorial Day, while Walter Buttrum, American Legion Post 99 chaplain and Air Force veteran, along with Father John Patrick from St. Andrew Church, offered prayers of gratitude for those who were willing to sacrifice all to ensure the freedoms of Americans.
The program was led by Donna Fare, Air Force Veteran and member of the Veterans Museum of White County board of directors. During the ceremony, plans for the region’s Veterans Cemetery, which will be located on Country Club Road in the Bear Cove area of White County, were revealed.
“This will be a great asset and serve the military families of not only White County but the entire Upper Cumberland area,” Sherrell said as he expressed his gratitude and pride in the committee that helped make the cemetery a reality. “It is still in the planning stages, but the land has been purchased.”
Jessie Buttrum served as ring bearer while the names of those White County residents who gave their lives in service to their country were read aloud:
Anna Lou Hennessee Holman (niece of William Clayton Hennessee, one of two soldiers for whom Hennessee-Baker Post #99 was named, was the World War I presenter and read aloud: Joe Baker, Clayton Hennessee, Quill Price, Grant Shockley, James Herod McPeak
Steve Sfetz (retired Army) presented the beginning of the World War II names: Fred Anderson Jr., Ralph Anderson Jr., George W. Andrews, Dillard Austin, James E. Barnes, William Bohannon, Emmit L. Bolin, Charles C. Bradley, T.W. Bradley, John F. Brown, Elbert Bumbalough, Ralph G. Carter, Hugh L. Clouse, Ray E. Cole, Will H. Colins, James E. Cope
Chris Sapp (AmVets chaplain) presented the next portion of the World War II names: Rubin M. Cumby, Alfred T. Davis, Joe T. Eldridge, Jack D. Elrod, Delphus Fisher, I.T. Fisher, Wesley E. Foster, Charles E. Frasier, Thurman Green, Willie B. Green, Paul Hall, Roby C. Hill, Kenneth E. Horn, Jessie J. Hutson, Edd G. Johnson, Byrd Lamb Jr.
Amberlyn Simmons. a representative from Girl Scout Troop 1101 took over the next section of the World War II names: John B. Lamb, Robert Lewis, John A. Lowery, Willard S. Lowery, Ray D. Mabe, Thanuel Manus, Ernest R. Mayfield. John F. Miller, Paul Miller, Rupert L. Minnear, Lynnville Myers, Amos Odell Perry, Earl Perry, Clay H. Phillips, Willie E. Poston, Robert E. Prater
The final set of World War II names was presented by Belle Roberts, Girl Scout Troop 1101: Fred Price, Clennie L. Randolph, Charles H. Reese, Robert H. Reese, Herman E. Rice, Murl M. Scott, Russell Shell, Hollis Simmons, Howard Spakes, Levon Sparkman, Jewel B. Turner, D.E. Waggoner, Gene H. Walker, Merrill R. Wallace, Tommy Young
Matthew Elmore (White County Veterans Service Officer) was the Korea presenter: Joseph L. Davis, Melburn H. Eldridge, William T. Elrod, Ralph M. Engstrom, Nelson H. Griffin, Harry G. Haines, Gerald Irwin, Rudolph J. Lambert, James F. McBride, James H. Pennington, D.C. Snodgrass, Henry C. Swindell, Jackie C. Swope, Oroa T. Wilhite
Bob Carlson (Retired Air Force) presented the soldiers from White County who lost their lives in the Vietnam War: William C. Allen, John Michael Casey, Sean Paul Dodson, Freddie R. Gore, Alvin D. Hutchings, Kenneth Lee Johnson, Herbert Roberts Jr., Thurman B. Shockley Jr., Jackie Troglen
After all of the names had been presented, the crowd stood reverently while Jerry Buttrum played the traditional taps on his trumpet.
At the conclusion of the ceremony, the Knights of Columbus, who had presented the American Flag and led the crowd in reciting the Pledge of the Allegiance to begin the program, retired the flag as they ceremoniously paraded it through the crowd and out of the park.
“This is one of the largest Memorial Day gatherings I have seen,” Sherrell commented about White County’s program. “It’s great to see so many people coming out to honor the men and women who gave their lives for our freedoms.”