Crowd murmurs Gettysburg Address during EHS Veterans Day ceremony

By Lesley Jenkins
star staff

Elizabethton High School officials hosted the annual Veteran's Day ceremony Tuesday morning, providing visitors a chance to offer tribute to veterans who attended the event. Near the end of the ceremony, the crowd echoed portions of the Gettysburg Address as a mystery guest dressed as Abraham Lincoln recited it.
   According to David Batchelder, Carter County veteran's services officer, nearly 6,000 veterans live in Carter County. A few of those veterans were remembered during the program through name recognition, the reading of a poem, a tribute to MIAs and a mystery guest.
   Sonnie Bill Mottern, a Vietnam veteran, was the master of ceremonies. After the EHS Ensemble sang the national anthem, directed by Debbie Gouge, Mottern introduced the veterans and asked them to stand as he announced different categories. Five POWs stood and the crowd cheered for their service in the military.
   Approximately 32 veterans were present who served in World War II; more than a dozen attended who served in the Korean conflict. Also, 20 Vietnam veterans attended and approximately five who served in the Gulf War.
   Three female veterans were in the audience, four recipients of a Purple Heart, one man who was awarded two Purple Hearts and one survivor of Pearl Harbor. The Pearl Harbor survivor who attended is reported to be the soldier who shot down the first Japanese plane in the attack.
   Lon and Linda Davis, parents of the late Master Sgt. Jefferson Donald "Donnie" Davis, were also present at the program.
   Wright Swanay, a former POW, read the poem "In Flanders Fields" by John McCrae. The end of the poem reads, "Take up our quarrel with the foe: To you with failing hands we throw the torch; be yours to hold it high. If ye break faith with us who die we shall not sleep, though poppies grow in Flanders fields."
   Batchelder encouraged students to talk to veterans and show them appreciation for their service to the country. He also invited veterans to visit his office to learn about various veterans programs and services.
   The Veteran's Service Office is moving from the second floor of the Carter County Courthouse to a white house adjacent to the courthouse. Batchelder hopes the move will be complete by Nov. 17.
   Another portion of the program, the "Empty Chair," a tribute to MIAs, was performed by Dean Perry, WWII and Korean War veteran. Assisting him was veteran Doug Buckles.
   A lone table and a single chair were placed in the gymnasium as Buckles displayed the symbols while Perry explained their significance to the audience. The tribute is also called "A Table of One" symbolizing individuals missing in action who are alone and will possibly never be found. A candle was lit to "light the way home" and to represent hope that the MIA will return.
   A rose was also placed on the table to represent bloodshed. A slice of lemon on a plate symbolized bitter fate, and salt represented fallen tears.
   Mystery guest Abraham Lincoln spoke of the Civil War, when brothers fought against each other, and recited the Gettysburg Address. An echo rumbled through the crowd of students and visitors as they recited portions of the address with Lincoln.
   The EHS band played musical selections, and student Jacob Pitts played Taps before the dismissal.