of Purple Heart Trail on Hwy. 51
Museum, Halls, Lauderdale County, Tennessee
September 22, 2006
Thank you very much for inviting me to celebrate with you the 20th Anniversary of Tennessee’s Homecoming here at the Veterans’ Museum in Lauderdale County.
It’s hard to believe it has been 20 years since then-Governor Lamar Alexander called upon us to join in a year-long celebration of what makes each community in Tennessee unique.
For Halls, Pat Higdon volunteered to chair the effort which brought the first B-17 since World War II back to the Dyersburg Army Air Base, and that became the catalyst for the Veterans’ Museum which opened a little more than ten years later.
Today, we celebrate that event as we also gather to commemorate the dedication of Hwy. 51 as West Tennessee’s segment of Tennessee’s Purple Heart Trail in recognition of those Tennesseans and all Americans of the United States Armed Forces who have suffered wounds or death by an instrument of war in the hands of an enemy in defense of our freedom. It is “the oldest military decoration in the world in present use and the first award made available to a common soldier.”
The Purple Heart, no doubt bestowed upon some of the service men and women whose sacrifice is memorialized inside the walls of this Veterans’ Museum, was first conceived by General George Washington on August 7, 1782. But it was not until 1992 that this Purple Heart Trail was dedicated beginning at Washington’s home, Mt. Vernon. Today, the Purple Heart Trail traverses more than twenty states as part of a nationwide effort to recognize those who shed blood for our country.
By joining the Purple Heart Trail, the State of Tennessee pays homage to those for whom no tribute was sought; no compensation set; no expectation of greater glory envisioned.
This State owes them more than homage. Our Nation is at war. Tennesseans are in the fight for freedom once again. They are now returning home in record numbers.
How are we serving those who have served us so well? Not well enough. We must do better.
We must do better than to assume that our State Department of Veterans’ Affairs is adequately funded or properly staffed.
We must do better than to assume to that our laws against discrimination in employment are enforced.
We must do better than to assume that access to affordable health care is the order of the day.
And we must not tolerate abuse or neglect in our State Veterans’ Nursing Homes.
So, as we celebrate the Anniversary of Tennessee’s Homecoming and all that makes us unique as a community, let’s rededicate ourselves to our Veterans as they, too, come home. And thank them for the embodiment of what makes us truly unique as a State and a Nation – that they would sacrifice their life and liberty to keep us free.