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Speaker reflects on Volunteer spirit

Speaker reflects on Volunteer spirit
Tennessee’s volunteer spirit was honored during UT Martin’s annual Memorial Day Commem-oration Friday at the entrance to the Hall-Moody Administration Building.
Maj. Kevin Brandon of Medina was the guest speaker and reminded the audience of sacrifices Tennesseans have made in service to America.
Maj. Christopher Mc-Daniel, UT Martin assistant professor of military science, served as master of ceremonies and recognized Gold Star Families and military veterans in attendance. UT Martin Chancellor Tom Rakes also welcomed the crowd and thanked members of the military and veterans for their service. The university’s Army ROTC Battalion presented the colors.
Brandon, a 1999 UT Martin agricultural business graduate, noted his own 16 years of military service in the Army National Guard and that time period’s significance.
“Eleven of those years, our great country has been fully engaged on the war on terrorism,” he said. “If you’re serving in the military, you’ve either deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, or been in a position that directly supports those soldiers downrange.”
He added, “We don’t have to look far in Tennessee to see soldiers and families that are committed to serving this great country.”
Brandon, who served two tours of duty in Iraq, recognized the 913th Engineer Co. in Union City and the 230th Engineer Battalion in Trenton, both currently deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. He added that the 212th Engineer Co. in Paris and Camden and the 251st MP Co. in Lexington, Bolivar and Savannah would deploy overseas next year.
“Most of these young men and women have deployed before, some three or four times,” he said. “Understand that our soldiers are committed to serving this great nation. All of them have freely volunteered to enlist or re-enlist during a time of war. Our soldiers are a reflection of the resilience of the United States.”
Brandon noted the first Memorial Day observance on May 30, 1868, and “the history of the Tennessee volunteer spirit and the sacrifices that have been made over the last century.” More recently, in 1991, he said that more than 3,600 Tennessee guardsmen were involved in operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
“And in 2001, the world stood still after the World Trade Center was attacked. The Tennessee National Guard did not,” he said. “The 118th airlift wing C-130 was one of the only aircraft that was not grounded that day. It flew a liver for a 6-month-old girl (needing a transplant) from Nashville to Houston, Texas, while all civilian air traffic was grounded.”
In March 2003, Brandon said “Tennesseans were some of the first units to cross into Iraq for Operation Iraqi Freedom.” He added, “At the close of December 2011, nearly 21,000 Tennessee Guardsmen had deployed for the war on terror, in addition to the thousands of men and women from Tennessee that volunteered to serve in the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.”
As he closed, Brandon said, “Tennesseans have always demonstrated their volunteer spirit through their actions by deploying whenever and wherever they are needed. And many of these servicemen have made the ultimate sacrifice.”
Col. Bob Smith of Martin, a Navy veteran who served in World War II, attended the ceremony and said these observances are important for reminding young people about the sacrifices made for freedom.
“I regret that the younger people don’t take advantage of these things like they should,” he said. “But, it’s getting better, and I hope to see more younger people out in the future than there has been in the past.”
The ceremony ended with a gun salute by the university’s Department of Public Safety and the playing of “Taps” by Staff Sgt. Charles Sadler of the Army National Guard. Published in The Messenger 5.29.12