More than 100 La Vergne residents, public officials and veterans gathered for their annual tribute at La Vergne’s Veterans Memorial Park at 11 a.m. on the 11th day of the 11th month to celebrate Veterans Day.
The program was put together by La Vergne Parks and Recreation Director David McGowen and his staff, with an assist from city officials, the La Vergne Fire Department and Police Department, and other city departments.
Navy Veteran Jerry Davenport provided the Invocation. Interim Police Chief Burrel “Chip” Davis presented the Pledge of Allegiance, and Melody Marse sang the national anthem a capella.
Local Rolling Thunder veterans were well represented, with their motorcycle “colors” on full display. Local American Legion veterans also turned out in force.
The ceremony concluded with a 21-gun salute provided by the La Vergne Police Department Honor Guard.
Four veterans provided their perspective as guest speakers — Tina Veith, Paul Williams, Sal Gonzalez and Col. Trey Brannom.
Marine Corps veteran Veith continues to serve as a civilian through her job with a healthcare organization working to rectify denied medical claims. She also volunteers with four organizations which assist veterans and community members, including La Vergne’s Box 100; the Stones River Marine Corps League; Irreverent Warriors, a social outreach program, and the Young Marines, a youth development program.
Williams, a retired Nissan employee and member of Rolling Thunder, described Rolling Thunder’s original mission to bring attention to the nation’s Missing in Action and Prisoner of War community and their families. He concluded his remarks by reciting Johnny Cash’s “Ragged Old Flag.”
Marine Corps veteran Gonzalez, medically retired after being wounded, described in detail his pursuit of his dreams despite the setback of losing his left leg, which he dramatically revealed by pulling up his pants leg to display his titanium leg.
In the greater Nashville community, Gonzalez works as a singer, songwriter, podcaster and actor. He serves as a speaker for the Wounded Warrior Project, the Marines “Semper Fi Fund” and the “Stop 22 Tour,” an organization to help reduce the numbers of veteran suicides, which occur approximately 22 times a day. Gonzalez said, “I really loved, and love, my country.”
Keynote speaker Col. Trey Brannom, deputy chief of staff for the Tennessee Army National Guard, said, “America is a great nation, with a heritage of freedom.”
He said American veterans are one of the primary reasons the nation has been able to be maintained over the centuries. “A Veteran is somebody who had the intestinal fortitude to walk into a recruiter’s office and sign their life away to the service of their country,” he said.