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Memorial Day to veterans and service members is much more than a backyard barbeque, playing volleyball at the beach, or spending time with family and friends. This is a time to remember and reflect on the honorable sacrifices of our comrades. This weekend is exactly what our Johnson City program did after months of isolation, separation, and quarantine due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although they were very successful throughout the past several months conducting virtual meetings to reach out to one another, nothing compares to an in-person event.

This Memorial weekend was the first time that volunteers and participants of the Tennessee Valley region have been able to plan such activities. An all-veteran group of twenty gathered on the banks of the South Holston River to spend time together and remember our fallen heroes. The service opened with an invocation followed by words of remembrance and the presentation of the “Missing Man Table”.

Many passersby stopped to review the display, ask questions, and offer their gratitude. After lunch we provided some casting instruction and helped new participants catch their very first trout on a flyrod.

Just being present on the river with these fellow veterans during this first catch and witnessing the smiles on their faces helps us to remember “why” we do which is far more important than “what” we do. May we always remember our fallen heroes and remember why they served.

“May we never forget our fallen comrades. Freedom isn’t free.”-Sgt. Major Bill Paxton

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