BY KRISTEN BUCKLES
It was with an air of ceremony and celebration that the 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment, Tennessee Honor Guard, paid tribute on Sunday to the 17th President of the United States, Andrew Johnson.
Regimental officers represented President Barack Obama in placing a wreath at Johnson's grave in the Andrew Johnson National Cemetery, on the anniversary of his birth in 1808.
It is customary for a representative of the incumbent President of the United States, whoever that may be, to place a wreath at the grave of all deceased presidents on the anniversary of their birth.
This year, on the 205th anniversary of Andrew Johnson's birth, the brief ceremony highlighted the former president's love for and legacy of peace.
"Today's president, Barack Obama, is honored and hopeful and appreciative of the 17th president of the United States, Andrew Johnson," said Lizzie Watts, superintendent of the Andrew Johnson National Historic Site, which includes the National Cemetery.
"It was his legacy during the Civil War that there would be peace; that his nation would live again in peace."
In an interview following the ceremony, Watts praised the ceremony as a chance to honor all presidents.
"We forget that truly, there have only been 44 presidents. There are 39 that are dead. They had the responsibility of the toughest job in the world -- most powerful, but definitely the most difficult," she said.
"It's because of their dedication to the Constitution and to the country that we are where we are as a country and as a nation. It's important to stop and thank them for their sacrifice."
Major General Max Haston, the adjutant general of the State of Tenenssee and guest speaker at the ceremony, welcomed all who came and praised the opportunity to honor not only Andrew Johnson but all three presidents from Tennessee.
"Each of them in their own way changed history," he said. "They changed history, whether it was the heroics of Col. Andy Jackson, whether it was James K. Polk and 'Manifest Destiny,' or Andrew Johnson filling in after Abraham Lincoln and taking this nation into a road of recovery."
Haston was joined by Major Brad Bowlin and Capt. Gary Price in laying the wreath and offering a solemn salute.
Chaplain Barton Eskind gave a benediction of thanksgiving for Johnson's service and the work of current-President Barack Obama.
The Tennessee Army National Military Funeral Honors Unit fired three volleys of shots in honor of the 17th president.