The voices of veterans who served in conflicts that shaped America’s future are fading.
That’s why it’s important for vets to describe their experiences for the benefit of generations to come.
Greene County’s military veterans are encouraged to participate in the Veterans History Project of the American Folklife Center, created in 2000 by the U.S. Congress.
Terry Harris, who works in the office of U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, is coordinating efforts to collect the experiences of veterans living in Roe’s 10-county district through a fellowship from the Wounded Warrior Program.
The American Community Survey, which is the U.S. Census’ yearly report, estimated there were 6,116 veterans in Greene County as of 2017.
The personal recollections of veterans from Greene County and elsewhere will be collected, preserved and made accessible to the public “so that future generations may hear directly from (them) and better understand the realities of war,” according to the American Folklife Center.
There are 16 million veterans of “The Greatest Generation” who served in World War II.
Of that total, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimated as of Sept. 30 that 389,292 are living, including an estimated 6,851 World War II veterans in Tennessee.
An estimated 294 World War II veterans die every day in the U.S.
Numbers are also constantly declining for surviving Korean conflict and Vietnam War veterans as well.
Harris recently said that he wants to meet with veterans still involved with organizations like the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars, and others who may not have shared their military experiences with anyone for years.
“The project is for all eras for any veterans,” Harris said.
Roe, an Army veteran, is vocal in his support for the Veterans History Project. He addressed the House of Representatives last month on the topic.
“The spirit of America is rooted in the men and women who have selflessly served in the United States Armed Forces, and it is essential that we recognize and preserve their stories for our children and grandchildren. I recently submitted the story of my service to the project and wholeheartedly encourage all of my fellow veterans to do the same by contacting their member of Congress or the Library of Congress,” Roe said.
The Veterans History Project collects and preserves the firsthand interviews and narratives of America’s veterans from World War II through the present. In addition to audio- and video-recorded oral history interviews, the project accepts memoirs and collections of original photographs, letters, diaries, maps and other historical documents from veterans who served in the U.S. military, in any capacity, from WWII to the present, regardless of branch or rank, and are no longer serving.
Harris, a Morristown native and U.S. Navy veteran, received a two-year fellowship to conduct interviews throughout Roe’s congressional district.
To share personal stories about military service, contact Harris at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For information about the Veterans History Project, go to www.loc.gov/vets/.
A man was injured late Saturday in a fire in an apartment building on West Sevier Heights.
The fire was discovered by the occupant in one of the apartments around 10 p.m., as smoke was showing from another of the four units in the complex at 230 W. Sevier Heights, according to Greeneville Fire Chief Alan Shipley.
“We have to commend the neighbor for smelling smoke and walking outside, where she saw smoke coming from an air conditioner unit and called 911,” Shipley said.
Upon arrival, firefighters discovered the man in one of the lower apartments and were able to rescue him through a bedroom window. He was then flown by Wings Air Rescue to a Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina for treatment of his injuries, Shipley said.
The name of the resident was not available.
Firefighters were able to contain the fire to the bedroom of the unit and none of the other units sustained fire damage, the chief said. Two of the others suffered some smoke damage.
Personnel and equipment from each fire station responded to the fire, Shipley said, and off-duty personnel were called to man the stations and reserve trucks.
Also responding the fire were DeBusk Volunteer Fire Department rehab unit, Greeneville-Greene County Emergency Medical Service, Greeneville Light & Power System and Greeneville Police Department.
Shipley said in places such as the West Sevier Heights neighborhood that have narrow streets, police officers provide assistance in keeping traffic away so the trucks can get to the scene.
Firefighters were on the scene until around 3 a.m. and were back on scene investigating the fire on Sunday, Shipley said.
The cause of the fire is still not determined, and the fire department has asked for assistance from the police department and Tennessee Bureau of Investigation in collecting evidence, according to the chief.
One man was shot and wounded by law enforcement following a long pursuit Friday evening that ended on Snapps Ferry Road.
The shooting involving a deputy with the Greene County Sheriff’s Department is under investigation by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, according to a release from the TBI.
A passenger in the car also faces multiple charges. According to warrants filed by the Greene County Sheriff’s Department, Melinda E. Babb, 25, 1070 Tyne Gray Rad, Afton, was charged with evading arrest, criminal impersonation, simple possession of a Schedule VI drug, possession of unlawful drug paraphernalia and violation of probation.
Babb gave a false name and date of birth to officers, and further investigation found her to be in possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia.
Her bond was set at $10,000 on the evading arrest charge, and $1,000 on the criminal impersonation, and two possession charges.
Preliminary information indicates the incident began at approximately 8:30 p.m., when a deputy responded to the 300 block of North Broyles Street in Greenville to a report of individuals sitting in a parked vehicle playing loud music.
As the deputy approached the vehicle, another individual at that location jumped into the vehicle and the driver fled, the release stated.
Authorities attempted to stop the vehicle twice with spike strips, and subsequently, it stopped at a location along Snapps Ferry Road, where deputies surrounded the vehicle.
For reasons still under investigation, the situation escalated and resulted in at least one deputy firing upon the vehicle, striking and injuring the driver, who was hospitalized, the report stated.
Authorities later identified him as Joshua Cook, 34. His address was not listed in the release. A condition report for Cook was not available, according to Ballad Health.
TBI Agents continue to gather relevant evidence and information, and, in turn, will share investigative findings with District Attorney General Dan Armstrong throughout the process for his consideration and review. Armstrong requested the investigation, according to the release.
The deputies involved were not identified in the release.
Due to the active investigation by the TBI, Sheriff Wesley Holt said he cannot comment about the incident at the current time.
The officer involved has been placed on paid administrative leave during the investigation, according to Holt.
Between the covers of a photo binder in the eastern Greene County home of Jack and Nepul Hope are images from Jack’s younger days, when he joined others from this nation and its allies who together saved the world from Nazi, Fascist and other threats to the future of every free human.
The black-and-white photographs, most made by Jack himself and some by others around him in those days, range from light-hearted images of young soldiers going through the daily motions, finding whatever diversion they could in a situation none wanted to be in, to shocking images of heaps of dead victims of concentration camp genocidal murder at Dachau. Jack Hope was there to see all that.
Interviewed last week in his home just off Old Stage Road, 95-year-old Hope said he doesn’t spend a lot of time these days looking through that collection of photographs and other memorabilia of World War II. Even so, his memories of the war, which officially ended on Sept. 2, 1945, 74 years ago this year, remain mostly clear.
The years have taken away most of this veteran’s fellow wartime companions, not everyone being blessed by such a long lifetime as this Greene County native.
The son of the late Edgar and Hannah Hope, he became a Greeneville resident after his family moved into town when he was a boy.
Hope’s schooling included time in Roby School in Greeneville, a building now serving as the town’s activity and social center for senior adults.
Hope had some difficulty in his school years because of visual problems that forced him to read a single word at a time, rather than in full lines or phrases, he said in last week’s interview.
Leaving school at 15, he was a working man before he really was a man at all – age 16 – working for a Greeneville milling company. His work life also has included years in a local “sewing factory” (where he and his wife met) as well similar work at the Watauga Apparel company in Johnson City.
The Hope couple would go on to have three children. Today they also have six grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
Asked if he volunteered for service when the war came, Hope grinned and said, “They volunteered me.” He still has within his photo album the official paper telling him when and where to report. He was 18 when he went in in 1943.
He was sent to Fort Jackson at Columbia, South Carolina, an Army camp and training center that dates to 1917 and World War I, but which had been abandoned, then reactivated for WWII.
Given a choice between the Navy or land service in the Army, he found it prudent to choose the latter if for no other reason than being unable to swim.
His move to South Carolina was the first of many journeys upon which wartime service would send a young man who only a few years before had “hardly known how to get to Greeneville,” as he put it last week.
Training for him also included camps in Georgia, Florida and Kentucky.
As he trained in Kentucky, bitter cold weather once got the best of his military discipline, causing him to leave his outdoor guard post on a freezing night and take refuge in a truck. He fell asleep there.
“If they’d caught me, they’d have busted me down for that,” he recalls now. But they didn’t catch him, and his confession this many years later certainly seems unlikely indeed to generate repercussions.
After stateside training was done, the biggest journey yet sent Hope overseas to England to begin active service with the U.S. Army 295th Ordinance Company, Heavy Maintenance. Duties of his outfit involved maintenance of equipment in the field, making sure the fighting men had the tools they required.
“We worked on anything that moved,” he said. “We had about 80 trucks, welding trucks, Jeeps, wreckers.”
Hope’s specific duty was gun maintenance and repair. “I worked on guns ... small guns like a pistol on up to a 75-millimeter gun.”
The two eight-man maintenance teams in his outfit had one shop truck per team, plus a quarter-ton truck, and a Jeep used by the officer in charge. They followed the advancing fighting men behind the front lines. If a gun or other vital piece of equipment required a repair, it was done in the field.
Over time, the Army gave Hope and his fellow Ordnance Company soldiers a fairly extensive European tour. Hope served in Belgium, Holland, Germany, and France.
“When the Americans were pushing the Germans back, we had to move about every two weeks … up to the Battle of the Bulge. That stopped it right there,” he said.
Within 5 miles of the front lines during the Battle of the Bulge, Hope’s outfit came under fire about 5 o’clock one evening, during mail call, from 75-millimeter German shells. “They throwed about 13 rounds in on us,” he said.
It was a trying time for soldiers in that part of the war at that time. “That was rough. It was in the wintertime. Eisenhower was a good general, but those infantry boys didn’t have no winter clothes. A lot of them froze to death.”
Hope, obviously, was one of those who made it through the war and came home. Looking back, there is one atypical thing that helped make it all easier for him: There were about 25 Northeast Tennesseans in his outfit during the war, men who came from his world, knew his home area and some of the same people back home.
One company clerk in particular became his friend. He was Arden Hill, who went on after the war to become a Criminal Court judge, based in Carter County, for Tennessee’s 1st Judicial District. Hill is retired now, but still a friend of Jack Hope.
“Me and him’s the only ones I know that are still living,” Hope said of Hill.
These days there are no more guns for Hope to repair, no more freezing nights on guard duty, no more German shells to come blasting through the sky in his direction when all he wants is to read his mail.
Today he devotes his time to being with his petite wife, now 93 and a woman of gentle demeanor and pleasant smiles.
Their well-ordered home overlooks a peaceful Northeast Tennessee rural scene through a picture window of a living room, one corner of which is dominated by photos of his family, spread mostly across East Tennessee and Virginia.
Though Hope, postwar, has not been active in veteran organizations, he forever respects and honors his fellow veterans, knowing what they did and what they endured.
How does he sum up his military memories of those wartime days in the 1940s?
He put it this way: “I wouldn’t take nothing for what I saw.” He pauses a moment. “But it wasn’t no bed of roses, either.”