Submitted by Meg Dickens
According to National Executive Committee Member of the American Legion Robert Hensley, Johnson County has the most veterans per capita of anywhere else in the vicinity. The Johnson County Senior Center honored these men and women during its monthly Veterans’ Cafe. Approximately 64 participants showed up on Wednesday, September 29, to attend this event sponsored by Danny Herman Trucking.
Whether they fought or aided the United States through different means, these service members played a part in protecting the liberty Americans enjoy today. As veteran and new Center volunteer Ray Branch explained, it was “a room of individuals that show us what sacrifice is.”
As a part of this event, local veterans gave prepared speeches and shared resources in the vicinity, and volunteers sang the Star-Spangled Banner. Community members also nominate a veteran to honor each month, and representatives present the most nominated person with a plaque paid for by Johnson County Bank. October’s winner is Don Payne. Payne spent 30 years in the military and remains active in local military culture as the Commander of Worley Hall Post 6908.
“We are truly blessed that he is still here with us after being hospitalized a month ago. Don was a sick man and we are honored he is our Veteran of the Month,” Center Director Kathy Motsinger gushed. “Thank you for your service, Don Payne.”
Johnson County has historically been an “instigator” when it comes to pushing patriotic progress forward. Hensley explained this with an example, the Johnson County Memorial Wall. It was reportedly the first memorial wall in northeast Tennessee and led to a push from surrounding areas to add one of their own. Like many before him, Hensley reminisced about September 12: a time where America as a whole had a rush of patriotism and a camaraderie unmatched since that time.
“We as veterans, we’re not looking for personal gratification,” Hensley described the veteran mindset. “We’re looking to serve and continue to serve because that’s how we grew up. Our folks taught us that, and we still have it in our hearts and in our souls. It’s up to us to get out there and talk to our young folks and tell them why we became veterans.”
The Johnson County Senior Center hosts its Veterans’ Cafe on the last Wednesday of each month. The next event will be on Wednesday, October 27. To vote for the November Veteran of the Month, enter a ballot at the Center or online at johnsoncountyseniorcenter.com. For more information on veteran resources, contact the Johnson County Veterans’ Affairs Office at 423-727-7929.