‘It was an honor just to survive’
Published 9:36 am Thursday, November 12, 2015
World War II veteran Earl Ellis was extremely grateful that he was able to attend the Veterans War Memorial ceremony Wednesday.
He remembers his service in the Navy from 1942-1945 as a turret gunner on a torpedo plane that flew off of the USS Yorktown and USS Lexington.
While recalling his time in service, his emotions overcame him, and he said, “I just thank God that we got back safe from bombing. It was an honor just to survive and to be able to be here talking.”
He believes he is the only WWII veteran still alive in Carter County
“I don’t know of any other [WWII] veterans still alive except me,” he said. “I’m just glad I’m going on 93 and able to walk and take care of myself.”
The last WWII veteran he knew, Charlie Bowers, passed away.
Speaker Bill Carter said that Bowers’ brother, Deacon, has been the chair of the Elizabethton/Carter County Veterans War Memorial Committee since 2001.
Carter gave a presentation on the history of the War Memorial and the number of veterans, community members and state and local organizations that joined to make it possible.
He quoted Deacon, saying that the memorial never would have been built were it not for the hard work and expertise of over 40 state work crew inmates who had skills in carpentry, electrical, masonry and other trades. They worked for about a decade to complete each piece of the memorial.
Carter also mentioned a number of financial or other contributors including Elizabethton Federal Bank, Kathy Montgomery, the state of Tennessee, Carter County Sheriff’s Office, Frank Robinson of the Elizabethton Star, the Ladies’ Auxiliary, Rusty Crowe and others.
Carter said $150,000 of the funding came from 300 people who wanted to permanently honor local veterans in a public space.
The memorial includes 258 names of those killed, imprisoned or missing, which Carter recognized and thanked sincerely for their service.
The Veterans Walk of Honor commemorates 5,695 veterans who served in the past or are currently enlisted.