East Tennessee honors fallen heroes at ‘Reading of the Names’ ceremony

More than 6,200 names of fallen heroes, across 35 counties in East Tennessee, read aloud at 7th annual ceremony

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Volunteers read aloud more than 6,200 names of fallen heroes, across 35 counties in East Tennessee, before dozens of people at the East Tennessee Veterans Memorial in World’s Fair Park.

“They did so many things and for me to be able to read their names and appreciate what they did, it made me feel very special, because they did so much and for them to be forgotten would be wrong,” said Cadet Patience Simes, 14.

Simes had the chance to participate in the Memorial Day tradition, which has taken place annually since the memorial opened in 2008.

Related story: Fallen soldiers honored at Knoxville National Cemetery

“Many of these young men, this is the last place they saw Knoxville before they went off to war. This is where they embarked,” said Wes Stowers, president of the East Tennessee Veterans Memorial Association.

Before there was a World’s Fair Park, the area used to be home to a train station, where soldiers left everything behind to fight for freedom. Many of them never came home, with more than half of the names engraved in the memorial behind soldiers from World War II.

“I think so many young people today come out of school have no idea of the sacrifice of World War II and just the sheer numbers,” Stowers said.

Some family members of fallen active duty soldiers attend the ceremony ever year, but for other soldiers, they are remembered by people who never knew them.

“That’s why I’m here, because a lot of families aren’t here,” said retired U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. Nolan Sharbel. “The things that we enjoy are a result of the people who have served in the military, and if we didn’t remember them, nobody would.”

Cadet Simes said the experience humbled her, making her that much more grateful that her father, who completed a one-year tour in Iraq, came home. She said her heart goes out to the families who did not get to see their loved ones return.

“I can’t imagine what they went through, so for my dad to be able to come home, alive and in one piece, is amazing,” Simes said.

Also at the ceremony, seven new engraved names were unveiled, including Randall Smith and David Wyatt, who both died in the Chattanooga shooting in 2015.

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