Governor Bill Haslam and First Lady Crissy Haslam joined Tennessee Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder and Major General Terry “Max” Haston of the Tennessee Military Department on Wednesday to recognize five veteran state employees and half a million Tennessee veterans of all ages and eras. The Governor’s Veterans Day event was held at the Tennessee Tower Plaza in downtown Nashville.
Sergeant Frank C. Bell, Jr., began his military career in the United States Army in December 1952. He is currently a member of the administrative staff of the Division of State Audit and is recognized for his military service to our country and impressive 47-year career with the State of Tennessee.
Sergeant Major Gary M. DePaulo is a 35-year veteran of the United States Army Reserve who began his military career in November 1975. Mr. DePaulo has been an employee with the State of Tennessee since March 3, 1999 and currently serves as a Correctional Corporal at the Department of Correction’s Southeastern Tennessee State Correctional Facility. He is recognized for his military service to our country and for his deployments totaling 49 months in support of the Global War on Terrorism.
Senior Airman Rafael Diaz has recently transitioned from the United States Air Force to the Department of Safety and Homeland Security. Mr. Diaz enlisted in the military in May of 2003 serving at duty stations in Texas, Mississippi and Montana. He is now an Information Systems Associate with the Department of Safety and Homeland Security and is recognized for his military service to our country and welcomed as one of the newest veteran state employees.
Private First Class Elease Jenkins is an Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities program director. She has worked with the department since 1985 and started with the State in 1979. Ms. Jenkins left state government and enlisted in the United States Army and served her country honorably before eventually returning to state service. Ms. Jenkins is recognized for her military service to our country and her impressive 29-year career with the State of Tennessee.
Retired Colonel Bonnie Johnson has recently transitioned from a long career with the United States Air Force to the Tennessee Department of Veterans Affairs. Ms. Johnson served 27-years in the Air Force and three years in the United States Navy. She started with TDVA in September as a Veterans Benefits Representative in Knoxville assisting veterans and their dependents to file claims for federal benefits. Ms. Johnson is recognized for her military service to our country and is welcomed as one of the newest veteran state employees.
“Military training equips many veterans to become disciplined leaders, enthusiastic team players and committed hard workers,” Governor Haslam said. “The State of Tennessee employs 3,165 veterans and spouses and is proud to recognize the state’s 500,000 veterans today as we honor their service.”
“Every day is Veterans Day and we should never miss an opportunity to thank veterans for their service to our country,” Commissioner Grinder said. “We have heroes among us to include more than 36,000 World War II Veterans, more than 175,000 Vietnam Veterans, more than 126,000 Gulf War Veterans and more than 39,000 Women Veterans living and working to enrich our state and communities.”
“We sometimes take for granted the sacrifices made by not only our veterans, but their families as well,” Maj. Gen. Haston said. “For generations our veterans have stepped forward without hesitation to answer the call to protect and defend this great nation. It is only fitting that we take this time to honor these true American heroes and Tennessee Volunteers.”
This year’s Veterans Day Ceremony included several unique additions such as the color guard from the 13th United States Colored Troop Living History Association. The unit represents the service of African American soldiers in the United States Army during the Civil War. The participating color guard consisted primarily of Vietnam Era Veterans.
The National Anthem was performed by 11-year-old Dominique Dy. The sixth grader at Merrol Hyde Magnet School in Hendersonville made her national television debut at the age of nine when she was invited to sing the “Star Spangled Banner” during a NFL game hosted by the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Veterans of Foreign Wars Chaplain William McNairy offered the invocation. Master Sergeant McNairy retired after 30 years of service in the United States Army and is now the longest serving VFW Chaplain for the State of Tennessee.
World War I officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, however, fighting ended seven months earlier when an armistice or cease fire between allied nations and Germany went into effect in the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. Nov. 11, 1918, is generally referred to as the end of the “war to end all wars.”
In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed Nov. 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day now known as Veterans Day.