Bridge to take name of MIA veteran
Published 9:15 am Friday, June 26, 2015
A bridge in the Happy Valley community soon will bear the name of a Carter County native who died on the battlefield in Vietnam.
On Saturday, a special ceremony will be held to dedicate a bridge over Buffalo Creek at the intersection of Milligan Highway and Powder Branch Road as the Staff Sgt. Billy Joe Ellis Memorial Bridge.
Ellis was born and raised in the Happy Valley community and graduated from Happy Valley High School before serving in the Army during the Vietnam war.
On Jan. 3, 1968, Ellis’ unit came under heavy fire. He was presumed killed in action, but because his body was never recovered he was officially declared Missing In Action by the military.
The dedication ceremony will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday in the field next to the Happy Valley High School baseball field. In the event of rain, Carter County Mayor Leon Humphrey said the event will be moved to the gym at Happy Valley High School.
Randy Lingerfelt will serve as master of ceremonies for the event and several veterans are expected to be in attendance, Humphrey said.
“They have worked hard to get this done and it has taken some time,” Humphrey said of the local veteran’s groups which worked together to honor Ellis. “They just wanted to pay tribute to his sacrifice. He was only 20 years old, like so many in the Vietnam war.”
In November of 2014, the Carter County Commission unanimously passed a resolution honoring Ellis for his service and requesting the Tennessee Department of Transportation to designate the bridge over Buffalo Creek in memory of Ellis and his sacrifice. Because Milligan Highway is a state route, the Carter County could not name the bridge on it’s own authority.
A joint bill passed the Tennessee House and Senate in April and was later signed by Gov. Bill Haslam in May which approved name designations of several bridges and roads in the state, including the bridge named in honor of Ellis.