UT freshman deployed to Washington, D.C., ahead of Inauguration Day

Local News

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Thousands of National Guard troops are expected in our nation’s Capitol this week for President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.

One of the soldiers called on to serve in Washington has Knoxville ties.

Nineteen-year-old Nicholas Gilchrist is starting his first semester at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville this month.

“His unit is one of those units that is there to run different activities in coordination with keeping the capitol safe during the inauguration,” Jaclyn Parks, Nicholas’ mother, said.

That’s why Gilchrist wasn’t at UT’s move-in this weekend. He’s a private first class soldier with the Tennessee Nation Guard, and he’s currently in Washington.

Gilchrist is following in the footsteps of his stepfather. In fact, they’ve both now had assignments at the Capitol.

“My husband is part of one of the largest brigades in the state. They were called to D.C. back in June. They went and helped provide security and just keep the peace at that point, so there’s some interesting symmetry there,” Parks said.

Parks said her son is excited about his new mission. It’s one of his first opportunities to be with his unit after many of his drills and training went virtual due to the pandemic.
As for her, though, she says she’s got a mix of emotions.

“There’s some worry there for sure. But there also is the fact that he is a military trained soldier, and we trust as a family during any kind of deployments, exercises, what have you, the only thing you can do is trust in that training and know that that soldier is prepared to handle what they’re prepared to handle,” Parks said.

And when it’s time for Gilchrist to come home, he’ll return to a special gift from the university, a way of thanking him for his service.

“Not only the recognition of the sacrifice that Nicholas is making, but to just as a family have someone do that and say thank you for your service, we see you and we appreciate you. And that’s a pretty big thing,” Parks said.

Parks said she expects her son to come back to Tennessee within the week following the inauguration.

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