Even Mother Nature had the decency to hold back the rain as Knox County came out to honor its fallen first responders.
Forcht Bank’s fifth annual Patriot Day event began with prayer following the presentation of the American Flag by the Knox County Junior ROTC.
There was hardly a dry eye under the tent as Josh Smith of East Barbourville Baptist Church read the names of 75 Knox County heroes.
Among those names were Jack and Marvin Willis, two of the original crew of the West Knox Volunteer Fire Department. Jackie Willis, Forcht Group of Kentucky’s corporate office manager, has attended the event every year since its inception. Her father, Jack Willis, was West Knox’s first fire chief.
“My dad and uncle both lived their whole lives here,” said Willis, “and it feels so good as a corporation, as a community to pay them the respect they, and all first responders, deserve.”
Quintin Young, Forcht Banking Manager, hosted the day’s event.
“These brave men and women in the various uniforms are the reason we have a safer community,” said Young. Volunteer firemen give back to their communities on their own time. So we acknowledge what they do and all the efforts they put into keeping us safe, and we need to support them in the same way they support us.”
Then as he looked over at the chairs filled by more than 50 Jesse D. Lay Kindergarteners, Young added, “It’s great to see these kids here. None of them were even born when the tragedy of 9-11 happened. It is very important that we instill that sense of honor, of national and community pride, in our youth so they, too, will never forget.”
The day’s speakers included Knox County Judge Executive J.M. Hall, Knox County Attorney Gilbert Holland, Air Evac Program Director Joe Bradshaw, Senator Mitch McConnell’s office representative Donna McClure, and Forcht Bank President Tucker Ballinger.
Knox County Unite Co-Chairman Claudia Greenwood spoke fondly of her dear friend and former head of the Knox County UNITE Coalition, the late Charley Greene Dixon.
“Charley wanted all of Knox County to be good citizens,” said Greenwood. “Charley was a man who did all he could to promote peace and goodwill, and on this Day to Remember, we remember Charley as a pillar of this community, a person who gave all that he had to see that the community was better.”
Then, as she choked back the tears, Greenwood presented Charley Greene Dixon’s son, Charleston, with a plaque honoring his father’s service to UNITE and to his community.
After the speakers, the audience stood with their hands over their hearts and sang along as the Barbourville High School Choir performed their rendition of “God Bless the USA” by Lee Greenwood, accompanied by senior Jordan Alwsick on guitar and Band Director Steve Chafin on keyboards.
Marian Forcht, who sat front and center during the day’s ceremony expressed her company’s appreciation to the fallen heroes.
“We believe in saying thank you,” she said. “It’s not just something we say. We truly believe it.
“It’s a wonderful thing to see these teachers bringing out their young students to an event like this. They’re being taught that this was a monumental thing in our country’s time. We get so caught up in our everyday lives, we sometimes forget the little ones don’t automatically know what we know, so it’s important that we teach them that these men and women died for their country, their community. After all, we hope that our children will grow up to be the next first responders and those who will protect our freedom and our homes.”
At the conclusion of the day’s program, Kindergarteners from Lay Elementary released red and white balloons to honor each of the first responders listed on the program, as well as those who died in the 9-11 attack.