Dedication ceremony to be held for local Veteran's War Memorial

By Megan R. Harrell


Poor weather has held up its construction, but it seems fitting that the Elizabethton-Carter County War Memorial be dedicated on Veterans Day. Committee members have prepared a memorial dedication ceremony filled with remembrance and honor that local veterans have earned.
   Brig. Gen. Russell H. Sutton, USMC, is slated to be the keynote speaker at tomorrow's ceremony. A native of Nashville, Sutton retired to Carter County after a distinguished career in the military. He and his wife currently breed and raise thoroughbred performance horses at their farm in Roan Mountain.
   Farm life may seem like a vast contrast from the U.S. Marine Corps, but Sutton has found similarities in the two occupations. "Farming is less regimented but is just as much work. You go from working 20 hour days to working 20 hour days," Sutton said. "You may have the best laid plans but it begins to break down which is not too much different from the combat operations."
   Although he is far from combat at his farm, Sutton said he will always remember his two tours in Vietnam and one tour in Southwest Asia. After Vietnam Sutton went on to serve nearly 30 years in the Marine Corps. His personal decorations include: The Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal with Combat "V" and three gold stars, Purple Heart with gold star, and the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Navy Commendation Medal with Combat "V", and the Combat Action Ribbon.
   The decorated general was honored when asked to speak at Monday's dedication ceremony. "I was proud to be asked. Delighted to be asked," Sutton said. "I am just a participant in a ceremony that honors military members who sacrificed their lives for this country. It is an opportunity to honor past comrades who have given everything that they had to give."
   Sutton has lived in Carter County for eight years and said he quickly became aware of the community's large veteran population. He said he has run into local veterans at churches, meetings, and schools that share their combat experiences. "They are proud of their former military careers, whether it was three or thirty years, they are all very proud of it," Sutton said.
   The Veterans War Memorial recognizes Carter County's servicemen who never returned from combat. The local heroes' names will be inscribed in gold letters on separate monuments that represent each conflict from World War I up until the present.
   As a retired major who has seen combat first hand, Sutton attempted to express what the monument means to those who gave their lives. "If those individuals could speak as one, there is a symbol and a message that they would probably pass on to us," Sutton said. "They would hold the U.S. flag up and the message would be a simple one, 'pay any price.' The symbol would be our political, economic, military, and sociological freedoms that we enjoy because of their sacrifices."
   Sutton encouraged the entire community to come out to the dedication Monday Nov. 11 from 1-1:45 p.m., at Pine Street and Elk Avenue in downtown Elizabethton.
   The Veterans War Memorial Committee began raising funds for the construction of the memorial in January of 2002, and groundbreaking ceremonies were held July 4, 2002. Committee members have been researching military and historical records in order to over 250 Carter Countians who were killed in Combat.
   Members of all local veterans organizations are expected to attend, and the Marine Corps Honor Guard and Elizabethton High School Band will be performing at the ceremony.
   Tax-deductible donations are still needed for the future maintenance of the memorial. Donations should be mailed or delivered to the office of the Finance Director, Elizabethton City Hall, 136 S. Sycamore Street, Elizabethton, TN 37643.