Williamson County residents gathered in Franklin's five points on Monday morning to honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice in service to the nation in the county's annual Memorial Day ceremony.
The ceremony returned to the Williamson County Veterans Park after last year's in-person ceremony was canceled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and instead held in a virtual ceremony.
Monday's event drew hundreds of community members including veterans, active-duty servicemembers and government leaders, and included the traditional laying of a wreath at the granite memorial by members of the Army 1-327th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division from Ft. Campbell, Kentucky.
Franklin Mayor Ken Moore and Williamson County Mayor Rogers Anderson both issued remarks and read aloud thirteen names that were added to the park's memorial bricks.
Those names include:
George A. Scott Jr., Colonel, U.S. Army, 1919-1996
John M. Currier, MIDS, U.S. Navy, 1930-2020
Phillip R. Feir, Maj. Gen., U.S. Army, 1926-2011
Carl E. Thompson Jr., SSgt., U.S. Army, 1922-2021
Glenn D. Walker, Lt. Gen., U.S. Army, 1916-2002
Jonathan R. Murphy, Sgt., U.S. Army, 1979-2021
Henderson E. Hillin, Cpl., U.S. Army, 1930-2021
T.W. Maliszewski, Brig. Gen., U.S. Army, 1922-2009
Robert D. Holloway, Master Sgt., U.S. Air Force, 1937-2019
Ruble L. Jeffers, Master Sgt., U.S. Army, 1938-2017
William M. Givens Sr., Chief Warrant Officer, U.S. Marine Corps, 1926-2011
George Lukon, 1st Sgt., U.S. Army, 1922-2014
Robert D. Ravener, AAM 3, U.S. Navy, 1922-1986
Lyle J. Davis Jr., Senior Master Sgt., U.S. Army, 1942-2021
"Memorial Day is a time to think of what might have never been, the brave Americans who put their country before themselves," Anderson said. "Remembering our fallen once a year is really not enough -- The widows, the widowers, the fathers, the mothers, the brothers, the sisters and the children -- They remember everyday."
Retired U.S. Army Senior Master Sgt. Michael T. Hall, who currently resides in Maury County, served as the ceremony's guest speaker.
Hall was born and raised near Cleveland, Ohio, and joined the Army in 1976 where he served in the Army Rangers before a short retirement in 2008, before returning to duty in 2009 until he permanently retired from active duty military service in 2010.
Hall recalled his years of service and the evolving attitudes of both servicemembers and the general public to the acknowledgment and remembrance of those who served, especially those who never came home.
"On Memorial Day, don't thank a vet for their service -- This day is for the ones that died in their service," Hall said. "I also say it's a day to celebrate the fallen, I believe they died so we can be free to have cookouts and drink beers and open your pool for summer, go camping or whatever else you do with your weekend. Just remember at some point the people who died for these freedoms."
Mayor Anderson presented a triangle-folded American Flag to Seana Arrechaga and her 13-year-old son Alston, who are a Gold Star Family from Thompson's Station.
That flag was presented in remembrance of Arrechaga's husband, U.S. Army Sergeant First Class Ofren "AC" Arrechaga, who was killed in action on March 29, 2011, in Kunar Province in Afghanistan.
"It's nice to be acknowledged on a hometown level," Seana Arrechaga said. "We live in Thompson's Station, and especially last year when a lot of things were canceled, it's really nice to see this many people show up and honor our fallen."
The ceremony concluded with a ceremonial firing detail presented by the Williamson County Sheriff's Office Honor Guard, the playing of "Taps" by a member of the 129th Army Band and a benediction by Chaplin Bryan Finch.
The event also saw the participation of the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 1140 who collected donations to assist veterans in need.
Bill Robinson, a member of the VVA Chapter 1140 Board of Directors, was present for the ceremony, and helped to hand out information to veterans.
Robinson served in the U.S. Navy's Construction Battalions, better known as the Navy Seabees, from 1966-67, and said that it was amazing to see the event return, in the county that he said is the best at supporting veterans and honoring those who have served their country.
"We couldn't come last year because they didn't have it, but our chapter had six people here -- We did our own celebration and read all of the names on the bricks just as a group coming here on Memorial Day," Robinson said. "Veteran's like me, luckily I came through Vietnam without a scratch, but the people who are being celebrated today are the people who gave the ultimate sacrifice."
The Republican Women of Williamson County were also present at the event and handed out bottled water and hand-fans to attendees who sat in the warm sun.
"Franklin is a community that has always appreciated our men and women who serve our country and this is just one little bitty way that we can do that, and to be able to do it again after not being able to last year -- It's just been wonderful," RWWC member Brenda Davis said.
More information about veterans services in Williamson County can be found here.