JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. – As the nation prepares to observe Memorial Day, a federal holiday dedicated to honoring and mourning the military personnel who have died while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces, Johnson City and Washington County, Tennessee, gear up for their day of commemoration. From poignant public ceremonies to intimate personal remembrances, the last Monday in May holds deep significance for the community.
Emerging from the ashes of the Civil War, Memorial Day, originally known as Decoration Day, was officially recognized by Congress in 1971. The day is marked by a unique flag tradition, with the Star-Spangled Banner flown at half-staff until noon, symbolizing the nation's grief, and then raised to full staff until dusk, signifying their respect for the fallen and the country's resolve not to let their sacrifice be in vain.
In Johnson City, the day's observance will kick off at 9 a.m. with a ceremony hosted by Kings Mountain Post 24 of the American Legion at the "Spirit of the American Doughboy" statue. This statue, bestowed upon Johnson City in 1935, proudly features bronze placards honoring those who served during major conflicts, from World War I to the recent deployments in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Africa.
Alan Jackson, historian for Kings Mountain Post 24, will share insights into the origins of Memorial Day, reminding attendees of the solemn history and purpose of the day. The ceremony will conclude with a wreath at the foot of the Doughboy statue, echoing similar gestures across the nation.
At 11 a.m., the grounds of the James H. Quillen U.S. Veterans Affairs Medical Center at Mountain Home will be the site of another Memorial Day service, held near the main bandstand and flagpole. The Mountain Home National Cemetery will be open throughout the day for locals wishing to pay respects in their own time and way.
In the neighboring town of Jonesborough, the Daniel Boone High School Marine Corps JROTC will start the 3 p.m. ceremony with a color guard presentation. The service will also feature musical performances by the Jonesborough Repertory Theatre and honor veterans from World War I to the Afghan War.
Finally, the day's observances will culminate with an annual ceremony held by the Johnson City/Washington County Veterans Memorial Foundation. Set against the backdrop of the Veterans Memorial at the corner of West Market Street and Veterans Way, this 6 p.m. event will offer a moment of unity and reverence, a closing note to a day spent in reflection and gratitude.
This Memorial Day is particularly poignant for families like local WW-II veteran John H. Dabbs, a former POW captured in the Battle of the Bulge and awarded the Purple Heart. Stories like his remind us of the immense sacrifices made by those who served our country and continue to inspire respect and gratitude in new generations.
In addition to Dabbs, Washington County has been home to many other distinguished veterans. Among them was Robert 'Bob' LaPointe, a Navy pilot in World War II who flew a record 90 combat missions in the Pacific. LaPointe was honored with the Distinguished Flying Cross for his extraordinary achievement in aerial flight.
As Johnson City and the surrounding communities unite to honor the legacies of veterans like Dabbs and LaPointe, they join millions nationwide in remembering the fallen. Another veteran whose memory will be honored is Master Sergeant Max Hernandez, a decorated Vietnam War veteran and a proud resident of Washington County. Hernandez was recognized with the Silver Star for his conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action. His dedication to service continued long after his military career, as he became a staunch advocate for veteran rights and welfare. This Memorial Day, let us pause to reflect on the sacrifices made for our freedom and renew our commitment to the ideals they bravely fought for.
To commemorate the courage and dedication of such remarkable individuals, the community will participate in various activities throughout the day. Schoolchildren will be engaged in learning the history and importance of the day, businesses across the county will display flags and messages of gratitude, and family and friends of veterans will share stories, keeping the memory of their loved ones alive.
In addition to these planned events, the Mountain Home National Cemetery, with its rows of white headstones, offers a solemn space for quiet reflection. This historic site has been a final resting place for veterans since the Civil War and is a tangible symbol of the sacrifices made by countless brave individuals. This Memorial Day, it will serve as a backdrop to personal tributes and silent salutes.
As dusk falls over Johnson City, the annual ceremony at the Johnson City/Washington County Veterans Memorial will mark the day's closing observance. Here, the names of local heroes, including Dabbs, LaPointe, and Hernandez, are inscribed in stone, their stories forever etched in the heart of the community.
The ceremony promises to be a moving tribute to those who gave their lives for our country. Music from the Jonesborough Repertory Theatre will provide a soundtrack to the event, enhancing the atmosphere of remembrance and respect.
Whether through public ceremonies, private reflections, or stories passed from generation to generation, the essence of Memorial Day remains the same. It is a time to remember the men and women who gave everything for our freedom, to reflect on the values for which they fought, and to renew our commitment to upholding these ideals.
As we stand in the shadow of the half-mast flag, let's remember the bravery, selflessness, and unwavering dedication shown by veterans like John H. Dabbs, Robert 'Bob' LaPointe, Max Hernandez, and countless others who have served our nation. Their stories, and those of all who have served, are the lifeblood of our national memory this Memorial Day.
So, in Johnson City and across America, let us remember, honor, and never forget.