Lyons honored during bridge dedication

Published 10:51 pm Tuesday, November 23, 2021

BY IVAN SANDERS
STAR STAFF
ivan.sanders@elizabethton.com

April 6, 1968, is a date that will never be forgotten by the Larry Jerome Lyons family.

That was the day on which U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Lyons was killed by a rocket mortar round after finishing his day’s work at an airfield in South Vietnam.

On Saturday, Lyons was honored by having the bridge on State Route 361 Laurels Road spanning Dry Creek near mile marker two in Carter County named after him. The Staff Sergeant Larry Jerome Lyons Memorial Bridge will be a lasting tribute to his valiant and selfless service as one of Carter County’s distinguished veterans.

“Jerome went marching off at the country’s call and was willing to give of himself totally so that you and I could remain here in the great state of Tennessee and still be free and still enjoy the freedom’s that we have,” said the Rev. Larry Edwards. “We are called by nickname as ‘Volunteers’ and Tennesseans have gone marching off many, many times that our country could still be free.”

Several guests were present for the bridge’s naming including Tennessee State Sens. Rusty Crowe and Jon Lundberg, Carter County Mayor Patty Woodby, and Sheriff Dexter Lunceford.

“When we pass these in the Senate, we always make sure it comes from our county first and we were so proud that they asked us to do this,” Crowe said. “I noticed that Jerome first went over in 1967 and that’s when I volunteered and he probably went out of that Johnson City bus station just like I did to head to boot camp and all those things.

“One of the things that we are really proud of is that Jon and I have put together our Purple Heart Trail so when you pass one of those Purple Heart Trail signs, think of Jerome and his sacrifice.”

Lyons was born and raised in Carter County. Shortly after graduating Happy Valley High School in 1959, he enlisted in the U.S. Army serving for more than eight years. On June 12, 1967, Lyons volunteered for active duty service in Vietnam.

He served as a heavy equipment operator assigned to ‘C’ Company 87th Engineering Battalion, 35th Engineering Group, 18th Engineering Brigade and on April 6, 1968, at the age of 26, he was killed in action.

“Honestly, there is not a whole lot more that can be said,” Lundberg said. “Just a couple weeks ago we honored veterans on Veterans Day, but in a week from now we will have Thanksgiving and come together as families and several will be missing – Jerome among them. I hope the families that are here will enjoy their meal and remember Jerome and what he did so we could enjoy that meal.”

Present for the dedication was Molten, Alabama, resident George Griscold, who came to the dedication to honor his military brother.

“Jerome taught me how to operate heavy equipment there,” said Griscold a 24-year veteran of the military. “When I arrived at the airfield the next day, I walked into the tent where he was at and there was a big hole in the top of the tent where the mortar round went through killing my squad leader, Jerome, and another E-5. There were 14 people wounded in that tent.”

Tennessee Chapter 4 of the Rolling Thunder was also on hand to take part in the ceremony as President Dave Rittenhour shared a couple of memories of Lyons.

“It’s our honor to do this,” Rittenhour said. “According to everything I could learn about Jerome Lyons, I am told he and his best friend Jess Price had a contest over who could get the most spankings in school, and Mr. Price told me Jerome won because he couldn’t take them anymore.

“It’s fitting that this bridge is named after Jerome because I am told he wrecked twice on it – one going that way and one coming this way. He was very detailed oriented. He had already served one tour and volunteered for his second. Sgt. Lyons left behind a wife, a five-year-old daughter, and a four-year-old son who had to grow up without their father and hopefully when they see his name on this bridge it can bring a smile to his face.

“He also has the unending gratitude of us in this county, this state, and this nation. He gave the ultimate price and all we can say is thank you Staff Sergeant Lyons and welcome home.”

Sergeant Lyons received the Purple Heart, National Defense Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Army Presidential Unit Citation, Vietnam Gallantry Cross, and the Army Good Conduct Medal.