Speeches & Floor Statements

Remarks Of Sen. Alexander - 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment Tribute

Posted on June 7, 2004

On Saturday, I went to Knoxville, Tenn. for the casing of the colors of the 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment. Four thousand troops, the largest unit in the Tennessee National Guard, are being sent to Mississippi for training, then to California and then, just before Christmas, to Iraq. This was a large number of men and women from across Tennessee, mostly East Tennessee. While their command headquarters are in Knoxville, their squadron headquarters are in Athens, Cookeville, and Kingsport. The whole community had organized a tremendous day of celebration and parade to honor these men and women. Randy Tyree, the former mayor of Knoxville, was the master of ceremonies. Joe Alexander was the parade chairman. The East Tennessee Veterans Memorial Association was the event sponsor. It was a bright, sunny day. It came during a week we had filled with honoring the men and women in our military. Earlier in the week was Memorial Day and before that the opening of the World War II memorial. The week ended with the celebration of the 60th anniversary of D-day, honoring those military heroes of the past. But Saturday was not about the past. The men and women we honored in Knoxville, Tenn., on Saturday live among us. We know them. We see them in those communities every day. They are members of the Knox County Sheriff's Office. They include McMinn County school superintendent John Fogerty. They are Casey Boring, Tony Loveday, Kevin Fuller, Roger Lawson, and Randy Cruz all from Blount County, my home county's sheriff's office. They are our fathers, brothers, sons, sisters, and daughters. They are not all 24 or 26 or 30 years old either. They are in their thirties and their forties. Some are in their fifties. Jim Leinart is an Anderson County deputy who fought in Vietnam and is a grandfather. He is a part of the 278th and is heading to Iraq, a month after he was supposed to have retired from the military. He is a tank mechanic, and he and nearly 4,000 other members of the 278th leave June 14 for Mississippi for training. This is what he had to say about it: Right after I got that alert, I figured out I wasn't going to be able to retire. I kind of dread it in a way and kind of look forward to it in a way. It'll be different; an adventure in another country. The families there, and the men and women in the 278th, all knew the truth. They are not going to Iraq and Afghanistan for support activities. They will be the first National Guard unit from Tennessee in a long time to be on the front lines, to be combat troops. But there was not a word of complaint that day. This unit has a fantastic history. The 278th traces its roots to the American Revolution in what may have been the first early American war of preemption. A British colonel named Patrick Ferguson on the eastern side of the Great Smoky Mountains sent word across the mountains to Tennessee that the mountaineers should lay down their arms or the British would come across the mountains and arrest them and hang their leaders. This angered the mountaineers so they gathered, in October of 1789 near Watauga, Tenn., near Sycamore Shoals. They marched across the mountains to find this general who sent this warning, killed him, won that battle, destroyed the left wing of Cornwallis' army and according to President Theodore Roosevelt, changed the course of the Revolutionary War. These militiamen were the early members of the 278th. At the ceremony on Saturday, Maj. Charles R. Southerland, who is adjutant of the 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment, gave a beautiful speech, setting out the history of the 278th and its significance. I ask unanimous consent to have the text of Maj. Southerland's address, as well as a story from the Knoxville News Sentinel of Saturday, June 5, about Anderson County Deputy Jim Leinart to be printed in the Congressional Record. The men and women of the 278th are going across the ocean to fight for us so we can live safely at home. They are doing that the same way militiamen in Tennessee did more than 200 years ago, men who went across the mountains to fight for the settlers so they could live safely in the pioneer villages. What I said to them on Saturday in Knoxville I would like to say to them and to their families again today: We are proud of you. We support you. We will pray for your safety, and we are grateful that you are going across the ocean to fight so we can be safe at home.