GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WATE) — Today is Veterans Day, a time to honor the men and women who have served our country.

This year, the tributes to our armed forces and had to adapt to the ongoing pandemic, but veterans in East Tennessee and their families still felt appreciated thanks to an annual celebration in Gatlinburg.

The Gatlinburg-Pittman High School band kicked off the 21st annual Veterans Day celebration held outdoors on the soccer field at the Rocky Top Sports-World complex.

Jay Teter a performer for Dolly Partons’s Stampede entertained the socially distanced crowd made up mostly of veterans and their families as they weathered a few minutes of sprinkles that didn’t bother anyone. Many have returned to the tribute year after year.

“I think it’s very honorable appreciate it very much. … Makes me proud that they care,” Sherman Wagers, a Marine veteran, said.

“We’ve done it for four or five years come up here. It’s great. Great people, great camaraderie,” Richard Hartley, a Navy veteran, said.

The Veterans Day Salute honored the men and women who served in the armed forces over the last 75 years and those who didn’t make it home from various wars.

Army veteran Edwin Tobergta said he remembers every person he served with.

“The ones that made it home; the ones that’s didn’t,” he said.

Lt. Col. Chris Patterson was the keynote speaker. He’s one of the top commanders of Tennessee’s Army National Guard. He said the men and women who serve in the Guard today are facing a new challenge with the pandemic sweeping the country and our state.

“Here in Tennessee the men and women of our National Guard are fighting a new enemy. The Tennessee National Guard COVID-19 task force team just reached a key milestone. They have just supported the administration of over five-hundred thousand tests across the state,” Patterson said.

While Nov. 11 may be one day out of the year, serving in our armed forces is something that must be recognized, cherished and celebrated.

It was this reporter’s privilege to emcee the Veterans Day Salute in Gatlinburg Wednesday morning.
— Don Dare.