Nearly 2,500 Vietnam veterans are laid to rest at the Mountain Home National Cemetery in Johnson City.
The military members honored by friends, families, and partners in combat as each individual name was read by one of 50 volunteers. The list took just over six hours to complete.
“I’m that age. I didn’t get to serve for medical reasons, but I had a lot of friends who did serve. This is a way I can give back,” Wes Johnson said. He volunteers with Rolling Thunder, which is an organization that assists veterans. He said he recognized some of the names on the list from assisting at the Mountain Home VA Medical Center.
Every person had a very distinct and special connection to why he or she offered to read through the list of names.
“I thought of how they sacrificed their lives for us, and what their families have went through too that we might have the freedom that we have,” volunteer Lula Bell Street said. Street said her husband and brother are both veterans. She enjoys helping whenever she can for veterans.
“It’s sort of hard to think about it, but we need to think about it. It helps with our healing process,” Keith Jones said. Jones spent 1967 in vietnam with the army as a combat medic. “All of us lost lots of friends, and I think this is a way we can remember and show our respect,” he said.
Often, this era of war can bring back painful thoughts. “A lot of those gentlemen and ladies, when they came back, it was a whole different political climate at that time. They weren’t really welcomed back. They didn’t get their homecoming like a lot of the other veterans did,” Historian and veteran Allen Jackson said.
Johnson said, “When they came back from Vietnam, they were called baby killers. They were spit on, and it wasn’t popular to be in the military then.”
That is why this Johnson City community wanted to make sure every single Vietnam veteran was honored.
“To me, those veterans are not gone if they’re still stuck into here, into your heart and they’re remembered. So when they’re not remembered anymore, then they are truly gone,” Jackson said.
Volunteers in Johnson City read 2,444 names of those Vietnam veterans buried at the cemetery. Of the veterans laid to rest there, 58 of those Vietnam veterans are from Washington County, Tennessee. Officials also recognized four veterans who were killed in Vietnam and two who are listed as missing in action.