Photo by Dave Boyd
(Left to Right) Michael Tester, Robbie Tester, Carroll Tester, and Pat Tester hold hands as Robbie says a prayer after surviving brother Carroll unveiled the historical marker. Beside Pat is Carroll's wife, and standing behind them is Sara Sellers. Marines helping with the unveiling were from U.S. Marine Corps Honor Guard, L3/24.

3 brothers killed in WWII 'fallen but not forgotten'

By Lesley Jenkins
star staff
ljenkins@starhq.com

  
In a little community named New Victory, located a few miles outside of Jonesborough in Washington County, three brothers killed during World War II battles were honored Wednesday by family, friends, Sens. John Wilder and Rusty Crowe and the Tennessee Historical Commission with a historical marker placed on Conklin Road at the New Victory Baptist Church Cemetery.
   Commissioner of American Battle Monuments Commission, Sara Sellers, worked along with the family of the brothers to secure the marker, have a proclamation from the State of Tennessee created by Sens. Crowe and Wilder to declare this day as the "Tester Family Memorial Day" in Tennessee.
   Imagine the heartache of Eliza Tester when she received the dreaded knock on her door and seeing military personnel outside waiting to deliver the devastating news that one of her sons was killed. Now imagine that she had to endure this moment not just once but three times. Robert Dent Tester died Nov. 26, 1943, in North Africa; James Earle Tester died Sept. 17, 1944, in Germany; and Glenn W. Tester died Jan. 6, 1945, in France.
   The brothers were laid to rest side-by-side at the Henri Chapelle American Cemetery in Belgium. The Testers are the only group of three brothers to be buried side-by-side after being killed in military action. At Henri Chapelle, out of 7,989 of our military dead, nearly 30 sets of brothers are buried next to each other, but according to a representative of the cemetery, and former Henri Chapelle superintendent, "there is only one set of three brothers."
   The remembrance was held inside the New Victory Baptist Church with more than 100 people present. Over 25 people in the audience knew the brothers personally.
   The song, "Honors and Glory," was performed by Robbie Tester, nephew of the brothers, and Michael Tester, great-nephew of the brothers. Robbie Tester changed some of the words to relate the song to the brothers.
   "It was Veteran's Day and I wondered about the tears in Daddy's eyes. Later we laid flowers beside a monument of stone and he said 'My brothers went to battle and then went home.' Fallen, but not forgotten, they were the heroes. They stood so tall. And forever we will remember with honor and glory they gave their all," was a portion of the first verse in the song.
   As Robbie and Michael Tester sang, two Marines stood beside the podium motionless during the whole ceremony, but during the song, the two choked back what might have become tears. Tissues floated through the audience as many recalled how they knew the brothers.
   Sen. Crowe read the proclamation to the audience. A portion states, "... do hereby proclaim that we pause to honor three brave Tennessee soldiers, brothers Robert D. Tester, Glenn W. Tester and James E. Tester, on the occasion of the dedication of a historical marker on Conklin Road in New Victory, Washington County, Tennessee, in memory of their great valor and sacrifice during World War II."
   Commander Mike Murphy of the Department of Tennessee Military Order of the Purple Heart said, "Upon leaving this ceremony, I am going to proclaim today as "Tester Family Memorial Day" and documents will be rendered by my awards committee and placed in our historical files so that the wounded Tennesseans that follow us will look back upon this day and the special sacrifice that this family has endured and reflect in prayer on this day for that sacrifice."
   Sellers visits American military cemeteries in 14 different countries and when she saw the grave stones of the three brothers, she was moved to do something for them and the family. "When I visited their grave, I was torn all to pieces. I had to keep my dignity because I was representing the president of the United States. But I kneeled and prayed," said Sellers.
   "I walked away and thought, 'That mother had the knock on her door three times,'" she said. She presented the idea to the Tennessee Historical Society which thought that the idea did not meet qualifications, but Sellers argued that one of the qualifications included the word "military" and the remembrance of these brothers with a historical marker certainly qualified under "military."
   "I don't know what else could be any more wonderful than three boys give their lives and then their families living here in freedom because of them," Sellers said.
   From the start of the idea until getting the unanimous approval from the Tennessee Historical Commission lasted from January until July. The Tennessee Historical Commission also required the $1,500 payment for the cost of the marker because the state did not have the money to fund it. After cutting through miles of red tape, Sellers was happy to supply the money for the marker.
   "Money doesn't mean everything. It's not happiness. To pay $1,500, but look what we've got (the marker). Look at the lives we have affected, of the family. We're remembering them after 60 years," Sellers said.
   Sen. Crowe thought it was important for him to be in attendance for the remembrance because, "We all need to realize and never forget. It is so easy to forget. You look at 9/11 and already it is dying down. It is so easy to forget that these men and women that died for us cared more about the purpose of liberty and freedom than they did even their own lives.
   "It is so important that we never forget and especially never let our young people forget what the sacrifices meant and this is just a symbol of our love for them and the sacrifices they made for us."
   Sen. Crowe added that if anyone wanted to donate money to help pay for the marker to contact his office in Nashville at 1-800-449-8366, ext. 12468.