VSO candidates

Shown here are the three nominees for the Hawkins County Veterans Service Office position. They are Jason Mooneyham, Col. Michael Manning and Darren Adams. The appointment was postponed Monday until May 3 because Manning won’t be eligible for the appointment until after he is discharged on April 30.

ROGERSVILLE — The Hawkins County Commission voted 13-8 on Monday to postpone appointment of a veterans services officer until a May 3 special called meeting so that one of the three candidates can be discharged and become eligible for the position.

On Monday, the county commission was presented three nominations to fill the VSO position that was vacated with the retirement last year of Danny Breeding, who served in the position for 12 years.

Among the nominees are Jason Mooneyham of Rogersville, who was an Army staff sergeant from 2007-18, and a unexploded ordnance technician from 2019-20; Col. Michael Manning, who served 30 years as a Marine and six years in the Navy Reserve and will be retiring on April 30; and Darren Adams of Rogersville.

County Attorney Jim Phillips advised the commission that because Manning isn’t yet honorably discharged, county guidelines prohibit him from being appointed.

There was a resolution to postpone the decision until after April 30, but it was pulled by its sponsor, Jeff Barrett. Phillips noted that the decision couldn’t be delayed until the commission’s May 24 meeting because, by law, the position must be filled within 120 days of being advertised, which occurred on Jan. 8.

Commissioner Dawson Fields’ motion to table the decision until May 3 was approved 13-8. Among the commissioners who were opposed to the postponement were Raymond Jessee, Donnie Tally, Mike Herrell, Larry Clonce, Rick Brewer, Bob Edens, Charlie Thacker and Danny Alvis.

Mooneyham addresses the commission

Moonyeham was deployed to Afghanistan and is a combat veteran. He was nominated by Clonce.

“I spent 13 years in the Army taking care of soldiers and their families,” Mooneyham told the commission. “I’m real passionate about it. I want to continue that by taking care of the veterans. I’m willing to do whatever it takes. Drive to their house, see them at the hospital, another county, whatever it takes.”

Manning addresses the commission

Manning acknowledged that he will remain on active duty until April 30 and wouldn’t be able to accept the position until after that time, although he noted that he was previously honorably discharged.

“I’m dedicated and passionate about this job because I believe that our veterans deserve it,” Manning said. “Somebody asked me if I could relate to junior enlisted because I’m an officer. I started as a junior enlisted sailor. I believe I can relate very well with their problems and issues, and I will seek them out.”

He added, “I’ve dedicated my life, and I know nothing else, other than serving service members, veterans and their families. I’ve been alongside Marines, sailors, soldiers, airmen, serving in combat. I’ve had a Marine give his life for my own. I’ve had 15 service member killed in my battalion in Afghanistan, 168 wounded, and I’ve had 30-plus take their lives since (returning home). I won’t stop.”

Adams addresses the commission

Adams said he has brought veterans to the Rogersville VSO for help, and he would do the job for no pay, but he was told he’s not allowed to do so.

Adams told commissioners, “I’m not looking for money. I’m not looking to step up into another position to make more money. I want to do it for veterans, for their families. I love them. I think there’s no higher calling other than leading people to Christ than helping veterans and helping their families. I live two minutes from here. I grew up here. They know me. If you want somebody who loves them and will be here for them, then I’m that man.”