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Kingsport mayor praises veterans at Oak Hill memorial service

May 26th, 2012 9:49 pm by J. H. Osborne

Kingsport mayor praises veterans at Oak Hill memorial service

A changing of the flag ceremony is performed Saturday during a service at Oak Hill Memorial Park. Photo by J.H. Osborne.

KINGSPORT — A memorial service at Oak Hill Memorial Park on Saturday focused on American veterans and the honor they are due.

It drew a large crowd and included a 21-gun salute, sounding of “Taps,” and a changing of the flag ceremony — on the enormous American flag, visible from much of downtown Kingsport, that flies from an 80-foot flagpole at Oak Hill.

Model City Mayor Dennis Phillips, himself a U.S. Air Force veteran of the Vietnam era, was keynote speaker.

“From the sixth grade on all I ever wanted was to wear Air Force blue,” said Phillips, who graduated high school one day in 1963 and entered the Air Force the next day.

Phillips said the nation, sadly, went through a period not long afterward that saw returning Vietnam veterans treated differently than soldiers who fought for the U.S. in prior wars.

“It has taken our country a long time to get back to where we really, really appreciate our veterans like we used to,” Phillips said. “Thank God the past few years I see the military getting the kind of respect they deserve — and it’s about time.”

Phillips said he was honored to have been “allowed to serve,” and remembered a time when soldiers in uniform could freely hitchhike across the country on their way home.

“No one passed up a person in a uniform,” recalling a time when he himself gave a ride to one such soldier and drove him not just to his destination city but delivered him safely to his home and “made sure he was at his front door before I left him.”

“This city has a lot of heroes and we need to thank these people each and every day,” Phillips said.

Phillips noted 12 members of the Dobyns-Bennett High School class of 2012 are going into the military upon graduation.

“That’s probably one of the best things that can happen to a young person,” Phillips said, going on to describe how he thought himself just about the smartest guy around when shipped out that day after his own high school graduation.

“I went in at 17 and came out four years later and I was about 38 years old — that’s how much you mature,” Phillips said, adding what he thinks are the three biggest lessons to be learned in the military:

It teaches respect.

You learn how to deal with others.

“And most of all, it teaches you that no one is better than anyone else,” Phillips said. “That’s a very important thing and I’ve tried to remember that my whole life. Some have better opportunities, but no one is better than anyone else.”

Phillips also offered words of encouragement for the families of those in the military today.

“God bless you and we pray for you every day that your child will come home safe,” Phillips said. “We live in the greatest nation on earth and that is possible because of all our veterans and those who serve today.”

American Legion Hammond Post No. 3 and Gate City Post 265, as well as members of the Tennessee National Guard and the Kingsport Police Department Honor Guard were among those participating in the service.

Sponsor of the service, Oak Hill Memorial Park, Funerals and Cremations also thanked: Larry Crawford and Able Printers; Charlie Herron (who presented histories of Memorial Day and “Taps;” the U.S. military; Voices of the Mountains (musical performances); Wings Air Rescue (which provided a flyover) and Pal’s Sudden Service.

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