Bring on the Brigade: Nonprofit organization holds dedication for county’s second Purple Heart parking spot

Published 5:12 pm Monday, April 17, 2017

A line of motorcycles filled up North Sycamore Street Saturday afternoon to pay homage to veterans that have given their bodies for the United States.
The Dog Tag Brigade Motorcycle Club held a special dedication ceremony over the weekend to commemorate Carter County’s second Purple Heart parking spot – located at the Elizabethton/Carter County Public Library.
Each sign, which the Dog Tag Brigade provides, is a bridge to help acknowledge servicemen and women be recognized for their sacrifice, according to Dog Tag Brigade Foundation Vice President Chris Arnold. The nonprofit organization based in Jonesborough is looking to expand its reach to serve veterans across Northeast Tennessee.
While various signs have been placed in the region, Saturday’s event marked the first locally where city and county came together, the vice president added.
“It was amazing to see the city and county governments come together and not just a private business,” Arnold said. “It helps us achieve our mission to reach out and be part of the public and it gives us the acknowledgment of knowing we’re heading in the right direction for what we’re doing.”
Saturday’s excitement was beyond fever-pitch with numerous members of the club coming out in support of the initiative. The ribbon cutting ceremony included two Purple Heart recipients from Vietnam, one from Operation Iraqi Freedom, and County Commissioner Mike Hill – who donated his committee stipend to purchase a sign.
“There’s some discourse about how we needed to open this up and make these parking space signs honor all veterans because there’s only a small number of Purple Heart license plate tags issued in Carter County versus regular veterans’ license tags,” Hill said. “My take on this, and I haven’t served but I respect what they do, but volunteering and signing up for military service is a choice you make. Becoming a Purple Heart veteran and catching a bullet is not a choice these servicemen and women made. That happens to you and it’s out of their control. I don’t care if there’s only one tag issued in Carter County, this is a big deal and it should be. They should be allowed to honor these folks. They took a bullet for us. And that’s pretty strong. I love this. It’s great to see all the people that turned out today for this event.”
The selection of the library came with ease, according to Hill, who wanted to bolstered partnership between county and city governments.
“Well, A, I chose this spot because a lot of veterans use this facility for internet access to look up different things. The library is such a great resource for us,” Hill said. “But the other reason is because this is a city and county partnership. It is the Elizabethton/Carter County Public Library. I want to see a strength in that relationship with this project. I want to see this extended to other areas in the county and see the partnership grow.”
And the commissioner joked about not having ill-will about being the second spot – with the Elizabethton Elks Lodge recently having a spot installed at their property.
“The first one was at the Elks Lodge where I was the Chaplain at for a bunch of years. If I was going to get pants’ed by anybody and get knocked out of the first one in the town, I’m proud it was the Elks Lodge,” Hill said with a laugh.
Renita Barksdale, library director, added she was happy see the turnout for Saturday’s dedication.
“It’s great to have a parking spot here dedicated for our veterans,” Barksdale said. “They’ve served our country and make this great place for us. I just wanted to honor them with this space. You never know who’s hurt and has to walk so far away to get to the library.”
“I was surprised actually,” she continued with a smile about the turnout. “I didn’t realize there would be so many people show up today. It’s great to see so many people come out to show support and respect for our veterans.”
Other Purple Heart parking spots are currently on the docket to be installed within the county, with the city requesting a couple for different locations and a private donor wanting a spot or two near the war memorials in town.
For more information about the Dog Tag Brigade or how to get involved, visit their website at or visit one of the two different Facebook pages online – “DOG TAG BRIGADE VETERAN M.C.” or “dog tag brigade veterans foundation 501c3 nonprofit…” for details.

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