BY O.J. EARLY
There's no question that military service is demanding and frequently dangerous work.
Add the possibility of being away from home for months at a time, and a lot of other stressful aspects.
But for five local military personnel -- all of whom are in Greene County for a few weeks before returning to duty -- the trip home included a nice surprise.
A billboard on U.S. Highway 11E in Greeneville, near Tusculum View Elementary School, has photos of the five armed forces members.
The message: "To all who served, thank you!"
"It is really nice to know that people back home care and that they took time to do that," said Rachel Burchnell, whose picture is second from the right on the billboard.
Burchnell is stationed at the Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho.
The South Greene graduate leaves for base on Monday.
For Burchnell, the billboard was special for another reason: she attended both elementary and high school with three of the men who were also honored by the board's message.
"It's been nice to grow up with them and know we are kind of doing the same thing," she said.
Those honored by the billboard message are:
* Spc. Ken Robinson;
* Pfc. Jeff Robinson;
* Sgt. Johnathan Morris;
* Airman 1st Class Rachel Burchnell; and
* Spc. Eric Murphy.
So, how did the billboard's message come to be?
"It was actually a coming-home present," said Veronica Robinson, the mother of Ken and Jeff Robinson. "I ran into the parents and said, 'I think this a great idea.'"
It took a little more than a month to get the details worked out, Robinson said.
The parents of the five military personnel went through Lamar Advertising. The cost was $350 for two weeks.
The names of the parents are:
* Greg and Veronica Robinson
* Cathy Franklin
* Don and Lillian Burchnell
* Wayne and Andrea Murphy
"We all went in together and split it," Robinson said. "We kept it quiet. We kept it off Facebook."
As a result, all five of the returning service members were surprised, Robinson said.
"This board represents our U.S. military, our young men and women," she said.
"Whether they are training in North Korea, Texas, California or Tennessee today, they could be on the front lines tomorrow. We are proud parents of our soldiers."