Gatlinburg pays tribute to those who served

Nov. 12, 2013 @ 11:52 PM

U.S. Army Veteran Eddie Holbrook, from Gadsden, Ala., was one of a dozens of veterans gathered outside Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg Monday morning for the city's annual Veterans Day ceremonies.

Holbrook, who earned a Bronze Star fighting in Vietnam in the late 1960s, said he and his family regularly come to the mountain town for its annual celebration of veterans.

"It's nice to come out here and be with the other veterans — when I see the World War II veterans, I think of how much more they did than I did," he said.

But it's all veterans, from all branches and all phases of service, who are honored by the annual day — set aside years ago to celebrate everyone who's donned a uniform.

On Monday, Gatlinburg-Pittman High School's band played patriotic music, while speakers — including retired U.S. Air Force Colonel David Evans, who most recently commanded the 119th Command and Control Squadron — saluted the spirit of veterans everywhere.

The colonel relayed stories of hearing former soldiers discussing the daily goings-on in Blount County in his youth, and how their faithful loyalty to the country shaped his desire to go on and choose a military career for himself. He said that those veterans in the crowd were likely planting the same seeds today with other generations.

Gatlinburg American Legion Post 202 supplied the honor guard services for the event, and fired a salute early in the services, which were emceed by Gatlinburg resident and WIMZ on-air radio personality Tammy "TK" Kelly.

Gatlinburg Police Captain Jim Maples, a Marine veteran during the Vietnam War, offered the day's prayer and provided some inspiring words during the event, which is an official Regional Site for the Observance of Veterans Day as designated by Veterans Day National Committee of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

"On this Veterans Day we remember the service of veterans of all wars," Maples said. "Remember how men and women set aside their civilian pursuits to serve their country's cause — defending the freedom of mankind and preserving our precious American Heritage."