BY KRISTEN BUCKLES
In a luncheon dedicated to those who have spent a part of their lives in service to the country, the Greene County Republican Women's Club hosted veterans at the General Morgan Inn on Monday.
Retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. John Cox was the featured speaker.
A Greene County native, Cox served a total of 37 years in military service and is a former commander of Company C of the U.S. Army Reserve's 844th Engineer Battalion. He also served seven years at the Pentagon.
After his retirement, he was elected to the Greene County Commission and served a four-year term.
Cox said he was only 18 years old when he joined the Army.
Standing at the podium on Monday in full uniform with many service ribbons and honors decorating his chest, Cox received a warm welcome and many compliments from the Republican women.
In response, he said that, although he was not a person who enjoys the spotlight for his service, he agreed to speak on Monday because he supported both the cause and the organization.
HONORING THE SURVIVORS
"I used to think of Veterans Day as a second Memorial Day," he said. Memorial Day, on May 30, is an annual federal holiday set aside especially to honor those who died in service to the nation.
He explained that one day he received a "Happy Veterans Day" card that aroused his curiosity enough to research the issue.
Through that research, he said, he came to realize that Veterans Day was for those who survived their service.
"[However,] we can't recognize those who were killed in service often enough or elaborately enough," he said.
During his own early days in the armed forces, the thought of giving his life shocked him at first, he said.
But, he continued, as he memorized the Code of Conduct in his basic training, he came to embrace the words labeling him an "American fighting man" who is willing and prepared to give his life "to protect our way of life."
The ability to be involved in government and to exercise the First Amendment are rights, he said, that are worth protecting.
Cox also briefly touched on veterans benefits, including disability compensation, health care, and the GI Bill, which provides financial assistance to veterans seeking educational training.
He encouraged everyone to research and become familiar with these benefits so that they can reach out to veterans with the knowledge of what is available for them.
MANY LOCAL VETERANS
Cox also shared some basic statistics from Greene County, including the fact that the population of veterans is higher here than in many other areas of the country.
He noted that, according to the 2010 U.S. Census, that there are 6,000 veterans living in Greene County, 122 of them women.
Each of these veterans has friends, family and loved ones -- whom he encouraged to raise their hands to show that they, too, had sacrificed by being separated from that one for whom they care.
The Greene County native concluded, saying, "America is worth dying for, and America is worth losing an election to stand up for our way of life."
WORLD WAR II VETERAN
The club also heard from Lyle Doty, a U.S. Navy veteran of World War II, who recalled receiving his draft notice in the mail just three weeks after he registered.
The letter that arrived began with the word "greetings," and ended, he said, with the signature of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
He and 12 others from the region selected the U.S. Navy and served together through training for the V Amphibious Corps in California before receiving "further assignment" first to Hawaii and then to the Marshall Islands, located in the Northern Pacific Ocean.
The V Amphibious Corps was a formation of the U.S. Marine Corps and was composed of the 3rd, 4th and 5th Marine Divisions during World War II.
They were the amphibious landing force for the United States Fifth Fleet.
Doty served 20 months of active duty before WWII ended, after which he said it took another three months before he got his orders to return home.
That trip took 17 days, but he described a hero's welcome for him and the 12 others who had been with him during those two years.
"World War II veterans are fading away fast," he noted, recalling the words of General Douglas MacArthur, who had famously said in a 1951 address to a Joint Session of Congress that old soldiers never die -- they just fade away.
"Those 12 others have faded away," he noted, "but they are not forgotten. Their names, their faces, their memories have not faded away."
AN EAGLE'S STRENGTH
Doty praised U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-1st, of Johnson City, as a "patriotic gentleman" who always takes the time to recognize his fellow veterans.
Moreover, he called for everyone, especially veterans, to consider the American eagle and all that it symbolizes.
He described it soaring above the mountains as a picture of reaching for great goals. Similarly, the eagle circling the land is a symbol of its protectve role, and the protection that veterans give the country, he said.
"Is that not what our American servicemen and women have done?" he asked.
He concluded with a simple request that God bless each one and keep them in His arms.
Both Doty and Cox received a standing ovation.
"We offer forever our heartfelt appreciation," Club President Nancy Wilson said.
HAWK VOICES THANKS
In other business, she noted the Republican Party's recent national loss when former governor and presidential hopeful Mitt Romney did not make it into office. Gov. Romney was defeated by President BarackObama on Nov. 6.
"Northeast Tennessee did well for Romney, but our shining star was certainly David Hawk," she said of the 5th District State House Representative, who won re-election against Democratic challenger Eddie Yokley.
Hawk expressed his appreciation first for the veterans, and then for those who voted for him and volunteered for him during the campaign.
He quickly called attention back to Veterans Day, noting his intention to focus legislation in the coming year to the number of suicides by veterans and active-duty servicemen and servicewomen.
"We never do enough to care for our veterans," he said. "We can never."
In other announcements, Wilson noted that U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., has announced his intention to run for re-election in the next senatorial race.
U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., was re-elected overwhelmingly on Nov. 6.
Meanwhile, GOP Chairman Louis Ricker praised the strong Republican turnout at the polls on Nov. 6 and called for the Republican Party to now turn attention to the many offices that will be on the ticket in 2014.
Finally, the nominating committee announced that the following new officers will be installed in December for the coming year:
* Joy Rader, as president;
* Nancy Wilson, as first vice president;
* Whittney Goode, as second vice president;
* Tabitha Hencher, as secretary; and
* Dixie Dodd, as treasurer.