By Cadet Colonel Dakota Hembree
Corps Commander, Knox Central JROTC
“No man is entitled to the blessings of freedom unless he be vigilant in its preservation.” -General Douglas MacArthur.
This quote could not be any more true in my eyes, seeing as there are thousands of people from our local area of Knox County, Kentucky who have served diligently just to protect the freedom that local people love so much. From the Civil War, to the ever so gruesome missions for the war on terror, there have been many valiant attempts to immortalize the names of so many brave men and women, not afraid to fight for the heart warming feeling that is freedom. This article will be the voice of the brave, the “locals” that paid the ultimate sacrifice just so we can live free, in the great country of America.
From the magnificently detailed memorial on the front sidewalk of the courthouse, to the many versions of unmarked graves of fallen warriors, Knox County’s history is surely one to be proud of. Throughout the early part of the 2018-2019 school year, I have made it my focus to improve the community, by revitalizing the very image of freedom in the minds of those close to our community. The instructors and I have sent home a homework assignment used for the cadets to talk to their family members and see how many people, some they may not have known, or some they were really close to, have served this great country. The assignment consists of questions about service members in their family ranging from “What kind of awards or decorations did your family member receive?” Questions like this are used to foster and grow communication within small unit families, but also to show a sense of pride among the cadets who have recently found out about their families military history.
With this in mind, I would like to write about some of my families history with the United States military. My grandfather, SFC (Sergeant First Class) Tony Merritt. This man started his military career with the United States Army as a combat engineer in the jungles of Vietnam. There are many fun stories he has shared about his time on deployment, however, just as others who have been deployed can tell you, there are just as many, if not more, that they will not share because war had reared its ugly head towards the brave men and women of service. After his time in the harsh jungle environment, he decided to continue his service, spending the rest of his career in the National Guard, participating in border deployments, and other events to better the community. He received multiple merits and awards, along with reaching retirement with the National Guard, as a SFC. I have had numerous other military members in my family, ranging from the USMC, to the Navy, to the Army. My grandfather took me to the grave of one of our family members. Served in a Marine infantry unit during the Korean War, and was wounded in battle.
There are thousands of soldiers in the surrounding area that have received merits and awards. The sad part is, we as a community have failed to relive these stories.
I, Dakota Hembree, am officially challenging everybody in the small community of Knox County, to talk to your family members about your families military history, talk to your neighbors, communicate with one another, in hopes that we can reinstall the unique and inspirational feeling that we know as freedom. I also challenge each and every reader to talk to a veteran, because you never truly know the inner workings of a person until you talk to them about their stories. Sharing stories of valiant freedom reiterates and revitalizes the true meaning of freedom, and creates a strong bond throughout the community that no man, woman, or being can ever separate.