Seeing Our Troops Off


Life around Livingston this time of year involves lots of outdoor activities, vacations, cookouts, trips to the lake, family reunions, and other gatherings that bring folks together. In the midst of our usual day to day lives, it’s sometimes easy to forget that we are deeply involved in war. Very recently, though, the tragedy of war has been brought to our doorsteps with the loss of Jeremiah Savage of Livingston who died in Iraq while fighting to protect us. And now, many other families in the Livingston area are among that number who have a loved one leaving with the area National Guard unit to prepare for possible service in Iraq.

As far as the eye could see, Overton Countians lined up on Highway 111 to show support of the National Guard and waved flags as the troops and their families drove by.

On Wednesday night, June 16th, local men who are members of the 278th Armored Calvary Regiment of the Tennessee National Guard unit were recognized in a ceremony held on the public square of Livingston. The fact that citizens of Livingston and Overton County wholeheartedly stand behind this group of individuals was quite evident in the large number who turned out on this occasion. While those of us remain here at home in the familiar surroundings we’re so used to, members of that unit may be called upon to go off to serve in a foreign country, and one where they will encounter an all together different environment that will be nothing like the beauty of the mountainous country they leave behind. Although much information is included on the news every single day about the war in Iraq, I realized that I knew next to nothing about the country where the war in going on. I looked on the internet and learned this: Iraq is a Middle Eastern country bordering the Persian Gulf, and is located between Iran and Kuwait. In comparison to Idaho, Iraq is slightly more than twice the size of that state. The countries Iraq borders are Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Turkey. The climate is mostly desert, with mild to cool winters. The summers are described as dry, hot, and cloudless. Northern mountainous regions along Iranian and Turkish borders experience cold winters and occasionally heavy snows that melt in early spring, sometimes causing extensive flooding in central and southern Iraq. The familiar hills of Tennessee will be greatly missed, I’m sure, by this unit of guardsmen as they carry out their duties so far from home.

Answering a call to duty is nothing new for the men of Overton County. In an article published in the August 4, 1933, issue of The Livingston Enterprise written by R.L. Mitchell, Jr., it is told how Overton County furnished more men, according to the population, than any other in the United States during World War I. Six hundred men from Overton County were enlisted in the Army and Navy during that war. It was a regiment of the 30th Division made up of privates from Overton County and soldiers from other Tennessee counties which was first to smash and go over the impregnable Hidenburg Line which broke the moral and the courage of the German Army and virtually decided the war. Overton County soldiers were among those first to go over this line. Later at the location where the Hidenburg Line was broken, a permanent marker was set so that history might be correctly written and credit and honor be given to whom it was due.

It goes without saying that as this unit of National Guardsmen leave for duty, with them will go our prayers and wishes for their well being and a safe return. A very impressive part of the program held on the square on Wednesday night included the servicemen, along with their family members who were present, forming a circle around the flag pole on the square. Next, all veterans present were asked step forward and form a second circle around the servicemen and their families. Lastly, others attending were asked to move in closer around the second circle, and by doing so, we were representing the fact that we have stood behind those who have fought in previous wars, and that we will continue to stand behind those who will be fighting for our country in the coming days.

At the conclusion of the program, many hands were grasped in firm handshakes, lots of hugs were exchanged, and wishes for a safe journey were expressed. Tear-filled eyes were evident everywhere. Those who were perfect strangers to one another didn’t let that stand in the way of reaching out a hand to a young man soon to be on his way to do a job for his country. Former football players showed up to give their old football coach a giant hug and wish him well on this journey.


Many banners such as this one were posted alongside Highway 111.

After this unit of National Guardsmen depart, life will require that the families of these young men return to the ordinary, everyday routine, but nothing will be quite the same until that loved one is back home safely. And if keeping those men safe just depended upon the number of folks who lined up on Highway 111 to see them off on Thursday morning, there would be absolutely no need to worry about their safety. What an impressive turn out! The east end of Livingston must have looked quite deserted that morning. Vehicles were lined up on Highway 111 from the entrance to the National Guard Armory all the way past Webb’s Market. There were lots of people waiving flags, and others who placed large banners on the bank directly across from  the armory letting our troops know they would not be forgotten back at home. A school bus loaded with children attending Vacation Bible School from one of the local churches took time out to participate in seeing the troops off. Many vehicles parked along the highway had words of encouragement printed on the windows. One local cable TV station was there to tape the event. And what about our local light company! UCEMC members deserve a lot of recognition for their part in placing bucket trucks on each side of the highway with a wire stretched across from truck to truck bearing flags flying the breeze. A large number of their employees stood near the trucks to pay tribute to the soldiers as the convoy of vehicles passed through. The local police and sheriff’s departments were well represented, as were many fire departments, and area Highway Patrolmen, all of which helped to make up a very long line of vehicles that escorted the two large buses and other vehicles that carried the troops away. The atmosphere along the highway was charged with good wishes and could be felt by everyone present. May we all get to do this again, but with the next ceremony held, let it be one to celebrate the safe return of every single young man who goes off to look out for those of us who stay behind.