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Veterans Day observed Nov. 11
We salute those who served ...

Veterans Day may mean a day off of work to a few laborers, while to others it might mean attending a parade or other festivities, but how many know how the holiday was started and what it means to veterans?

The first celebration using the term Veterans Day occurred in Birmingham, Ala., in 1947, a spokesperson from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs said in a recent press release.

Raymond Weeks, a World War II veteran, organized “National Veterans Day,” which included a parade and other festivities, to honor all veterans. The event was held Nov. 11, then designated as Armistice Day, which celebrated the end of the “war to end all wars,” World War I. In 1954, Congress passed the bill that President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed proclaiming Nov. 11 as Veterans Day.

However, “Back in the late ’60s, Congress got the idea that, ‘well, we want to … make all these holidays on Monday.’ Technically, they used to be observed on the fourth Monday of October,” said retired USMC Sgt. Maj. David Hatfield, commandant of U.S. Marine League Andrew Bonnyman Detachment No. 924. “That went for several years.”

Then, “They said, ‘no, this is too important of a date that should always be remembered for its significance of the Armistice ending World War I,” he added.

Lt. Cmdr. Duff Thompson, senior officer with Farragut High School NJROTC, said, “It seems like one of the better holidays to me because we’re honoring the people who served in the military that make America what it is. Without that military we really wouldn’t have an America. Not just recent people, but it really honors every veteran from the Revolutionary War on. I take a lot of satisfaction in it. I get a tiny bit of that since I’m a veteran. It honors the people that put their life on the line to keep this the country it is.”

The former U.S. Navy pilot served for 20 years, and added, “It’s really a pretty sentimental thing for me.”

The holiday is significant to other local veterans as well.

Maj. Belinda Twohig, senior naval science instructor with Bearden High School NJROTC, is a 28-year Marine Corps veteran whose duties included supervising detainee transfers to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

About Veterans Day, she said, “That’s real close to my heart. My oldest son [Cpl. Richard Twohig, U.S. Army 82nd Airborne] is a disabled vet; he fought in the Iraqi War [injured in 2003], and he’s a hundred percent disabled.

“And my youngest son [Lance Cpl. Christopher Twohig, U.S. Marines], the day I retired, joined the Marine Corps, and he will soon be leaving to deploy, shortly after Christmas,” she added. “My father [Sgt. 1st Class Damon Coffey, U.S. Army] was also a veteran; he fought in the Korean War. It goes very deep in our roots, and we believe in the lifestyle we have here in the United States. And we believe in defending it.”

So why is it important to keep celebrating the holiday?

“You have to celebrate in order to allow the military to understand that we appreciate what they do when they’re called upon to do it. Lots of times, during peace, it’s a good career. You learn a lot, do a lot, and then, every once in awhile, get called upon to do military stuff. If you don’t celebrate it, who is going to do it?” Joseph Mazzola, member of American Legion, Knoxville Post 2, said. “You’ve got to say thank you for doing what you’re doing so that we can live in this wonderful country, and unless you’ve been out overseas somewhere, you have no understanding of how great this country really is. There’s no other country like this one.”

Mazzola served four years in the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam era.


American Legion Post 2 has organized the Knoxville Veterans Day Parade for 82 years. This year’s parade will begin at 10:45 a.m., Friday, Nov. 9, at the Civic Coliseum, traveling down Gay Street to Depot Avenue, pausing at 11 a.m. in front of the reviewing stand at Wall Avenue for honors.

FHS’s and BHS’s NJROTC members will be marching in the parade.

Master. Sgt. Jimmy Johnson, NCO Farragut High School NJROTC, served 22 years in the U.S. Marine Corps, and said, “The camaraderie of being a Marine, you get to meet all the service members down there [at the parade]. They come up and shake your hand. It gives you a lot of pride to be around them. Gentlemen that served in the Korean War, possibly World War II.

“It’s a requirement for our unit to be there,” he added.

Johnson isn’t the only one with the FHS NJROTC program, which is composed of “about 65” members, who appreciates the Post’s efforts.

During last year’s Veterans Day Parade, “I met a gentleman from World War II who used to fly P-51 Mustangs, that’s my favorite airplane in the world,” Thompson said. “You just never know who you’re going to meet. It was really


The parade also will include school marching bands, law enforcement, military and civilian aircraft flyovers and military units.

Last year, “We had a group from Delta Force walking down the street in their full battle gear, a couple of humvees with 50-calibers on them, a typical patrol. This group could not get down the street. People would go out and hug and kiss them. It was really something,” Mazzola said. “We’re also giving recognition to Gold Star Mothers and Wives. These are survivor mothers and wives of fallen warriors.”

As Grand Marshals of the parade, several of these women will be presented with flowers at the reviewing stand, at Wall Avenue and Gay Street, by the Marine Honor Guard.

Special recognition also will be given to the East Tennessee Veterans Memorial.

“They are putting together a memorial for the approximately 6,000 fallen warriors going back all the way to World War I. It’s in the process of being built, but there’s still some money needed,” Mazzola added.

After the parade, a Veterans Day Luncheon will be held at The Foundry.

Local Marines have its celebration planned to honor the Marines’ 232th birthday (Nov. 10), which follows the Veterans Day luncheon Friday.

“All the Marines, and friends of Marines, who are present, we are going to get together. We have a tradition in the Marines to read the 13th Commandant’s Message, Gen. Lejune, we’ll read his traditional message,” Hatfield said. “Then we’ll go read the current Commandant’s birthday message.”

Following is a special cake cutting, “Which we give the oldest Marine present the first slice of cake. And then the youngest Marine present, either active or reserve or Marine veteran, will get the second piece of cake. It’s a tradition that we’ve always had.”


• Christian Academy of Knoxville’s Veterans Day Chapel will take place at 9 a.m., Thursday, Nov. 8, in the CAK Campus Center. Event is open to all CAK students, staff, family members, friends and, especially, active or retired veterans. Service men and women are invited to attend the Chapel dressed in full military uniform. Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale will serve as master of ceremonies and The University of Tennessee Color Guard will present colors. Guests also will enjoy the CAK band, ensemble, choir and other CAK students who will participate in the


• Young Marine Ball, sponsored by Bonnyman Detachment 924 (ages 9 to 18), will honor the Marine Corps birthday at 6 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 10, at Eagleton Elementary School in Maryville.

• Honoring the memory of Detachment namesake, Medal of Honor recipient Lt. Andrew Bonnyman, the 924 Marine League will gather for a 21-gun salute in Highland Memorial Cemetery off Sutherland Avenue at 11 a.m., Wednesday, Nov. 21.

• The Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center will host a Veterans Day program beginning at 2 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 10, at the center’s main entrance. Program will include the USMC Color Guard from Delta Company in Knoxville, a melody of service hymns and special remarks by Lieutenant General R. A. Tiebout, USMC Retired. Invocation and Benediction will be presented by Ken Abbott, pastor, Tuckaleechee United Methodist Church in Townsend.

• The 65th anniversary of the Manhattan Project and the role of Oak Ridge will be highlighted with “Remembering The Manhattan Project: Voices of the Veterans” beginning at 2 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 11, at the American Museum of Science and Energy auditorium, 300 South Tulane Ave., Oak Ridge. Atomic Heritage Foundation president Cynthia Kelly will present highlights from her new book “The Manhattan Project: The Birth of the Atomic Bomb in the Words of its Creators, Eyewitnesses and Historians.”  She will talk about the World War II Manhattan Project’s significance and introduce special guest presenters Bill Wilcox and Colleen Black, eyewitnesses and contributors to Oak Ridge’s role to enrich the uranium for the first atomic weapon. Kelly will be available for a book signing in the AMSE lobby following the one-hour auditorium program. Book is available for $24.95 in the museum’s Discovery Shop from 10:30 a.m. to 4:45 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and from 1 to 4:45 p.m., Sunday. Admission is free. First 200 people in attendance will receive miniature American flag. Cookies and punch will be served after the program. For more information on AMSE memberships, programs, events and exhibitions, visit or call 865-576-3200.

• The Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge Office will host a Veterans Day ceremony in honor of the courageous men and women who have served in our nation’s Armed Forces beginning at 10 a.m., Thursday, Nov. 8, at Federal Building Lawn, 200 Administration Road, Oak Ridge. Ceremony will feature Wackenhut Services Incorporated Veterans Color Guard and speakers who have served in U.S. Armed Forces. Featured speakers are current ORO employees, one of which has served a tour of duty in Iraq. Oak Ridge High School Band will perform patriotic tunes. Closing the ceremony will be a rendition of “Taps.”


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