Roy Exum: Today We Salute Our Soldier

Thursday, July 04, 2013 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

THE SOLDIER’S CREED

I am an American Soldier.

I am a warrior and a member of a team.

I serve the people of the United States, and live the Army Values.

I will always place the mission first.

I will never accept defeat.

I will never quit.

I will never leave a fallen comrade.

I am disciplined, physically and mentally tough, trained and proficient in my warrior tasks and drills.

I always maintain my arms, my equipment and myself.

I am an expert and I am a professional.

I stand ready to deploy, engage, and destroy, the enemies of the United States of America in close combat.

I am a guardian of freedom and the American way of life.

I am an American Soldier.

-- Compliments of the U.S. Army 

* * *

And, so, today in tiny Apison, Tn., what is expected to be a huge crowd will defy heavy rains, muddy shoes and the toughest emotion for any of us to ever understand – gratitude. Yet we will try to thank and salute an American Soldier named Andrew Smith, a warrior, a member of the team, who has never given up, never accepted defeat, and never quit after an Afghanistan bomb may well have dented his life, but has hardly his soul.

The ceremony, scheduled to begin at 11 a.m., will be among the most wonderful in our region’s history. For the last seven days and throughout each night, a team of over 1,000 volunteers and “at least 50 different companies” has completely built and immaculately finished a 3,000-square foot house nestled on four acres so that “we, the people” can present Andrew and his pretty wife, Tori, their richly-deserved piece of America.

Oh, Andrew paid dearly for it, the loss of both legs, easy to see while the anguish and pain and heartbreak, are only to be imagined. But not once has he ever complained, has he ever greeted a set-back without his firm-set jaw, and he has exhibited instead an unwavering faith in Jesus Christ that leaves a common man in awe.

Mark Wilson, who went to Walter Reed National Medical Hospital in Washington to visit with the ravaged Smiths, created a “Steps 2 Hope” Foundation and told them he and a huge crowd of friends wanted to build them a house. “Well, we all had a pretty good cry,” he admitted, “and then I asked them what kind of house they might like. Andrew told me they wanted a place where they could shoot a gun off the back porch and not hurt anyone. That’s what we came up with!”

Actually, Andrew – still an enlisted soldier – is in the middle of his medical boards and probably will not be discharged until the Army deems him totally fit and capable. “Tori and I both want to get our master's degrees (they both graduated from Lee University where they fell in love) but we plan to live in this house the rest of our lives.”

No amount of rain will ever diminish the glow of the house, up the long driveway located off Bill Jones Road, nor will the weather dampen the spirits of the men and women, boys and girls, who have given so unselfishly of time and sweat in the past week for “our Wounded Warrior.” The whole house is designed to meet Andrew’s special needs yet it is aesthetically stunning as well.

Better still, Andrew and his extended family were duly sent away from the house last weekend to enhance what they will behold when he and Tori are presented the keys – free-and-clear -- to its front door today. General B.B. Bell, the XO on Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf’s staff during the Persian Gulf War, will be the Independence Day speaker at the ceremony, as well he should.

“We had to pour the main slab early – it takes 21 days to cure – and one night a couple of weeks before we launched the build, I came out to see if everything was alright,” said Wilson. “But there was a pickup truck, with its lights on, slowly circling the concrete slab and. Alarmed, I hurriedly drove up to see who was trespassing. That’s when Gen. Bell rolled his window down and yelled, ‘I think this is going to do just fine!’” the organizer laughed.

“General Bell has worked a lot on the construction part, too … he knows the price of freedom, of our Independence,” Wilson said, “so this house – this mission -- means as much to him, in a deep and personal way, as it does to any of the rest of us.”

There will be parades and concerts and parties all across America as this nation celebrates its independence, as well as its freedoms but, in tiny Apison, there will be one further display -- living proof of “America, The Beautiful.”

DIRECTIONS – The public is invited to attend today’s ceremony and officials are asking patriots – especially veterans – to arrive 30 minutes early due to anticipated traffic congestion. Go east on East Brainerd Road, going straight at the Ooltewah-Ringgold Road intersection. Take the left fork at the Apison city limits (staying on East Brainerd Road) and proceed past Apison Elementary School. Turn right on Bob Jones Road. (Tip: Bring Kleenex – gratitude can be very emotional, particularly on Independence Day.)

royexum@aol.com


Policeman: Modern Day "Boogie Man"

As a child I was under the impression that a ghastly, grotesque creature had taken up residence in my bedroom closet, the proverbial “Boogie Man” I suppose.  This is not an uncommon thing among children and most likely to some fault of my own as I subjected myself to some pretty iconic 1980’s horror flicks. There were other kids in the neighborhood that not only claimed to ... (click for more)

Why Ferguson Matters In Chattanooga

The recent verdict in Ferguson has thrown race relations in the spotlight again. It is far too easy to get caught up in the debate as to who was right. But the plain fact is that the community lost, the police force lost and the nation lost. So why does Ferguson matter in Chattanooga? Because a police force mainly composed of whites got into a conflict with a community mainly ... (click for more)

10-Year-Old Boy Seriously Injured In Attack By Pit Bull At His Home In Sale Creek

A 10-year-old boy suffered serious injuries when he was attacked by a Pit Bull on Thanksgiving Day morning. At approximately 10:12 a.m. deputies were called to 175 Daugherty Ferry Road regarding  a report of a dog attack on a child.  On arrival the Sale Creek Fire Department found the child on the front porch of the residence.  The child’s father said ... (click for more)

Alecia Driggins Faces Multiple Charges After Robbery And Hit-And-Run In East Ridge

East Ridge Police arrived on Sunday at 12:30 p.m. at the East Ridge Flea Market at 6725 Ringgold Road in response to a reported pedestrian struck and hit and run incident. Once on the scene, police determined that the incident was actually a robbery. The victim advised police that a white woman claiming to be a police officer grabbed her purse and attempted to flee ... (click for more)

Alcoa, A Prep Football Gold Standard, Up Next For Irish

Notre Dame almost had a crack at powerful Alcoa in the 2013 TSSAA football playoff semifinal round. But, in the quarterfinals, Alcoa beat Christian Academy of Knoxville, 42-14, but the Fighting Irish dropped a 19-10 decision to Upperman, which was crushed, 75-18, a week later by the Tornadoes. Alcoa clipped Christ Presbyterian Academy, 25-7, in the state championship game. ... (click for more)

Chattanooga Women Shock No.4 Tennessee, 67-63

Before the season started some people across the country called Chattanooga women’s basketball coach Jim Foster crazy for scheduling three top 10 teams – Notre Dame (national runner-up) Stanford and Tennessee - before Christmas. After Wednesday night’s UTC shocking 67-63 home win against No.4 Tennessee before 4,160, those same folks might believe coach Foster is crazy like ... (click for more)