NEWPORT—A large crowed turned out in their red, white and blue attire Thursday morning to celebrate Independence Day, and to catch a glimpse of the mural that has been painted on the DAV Chapter 102 building in Newport.
For weeks several organizations have been working on the project with the final product being revealed on July 4th.
Rob Watkins, DAV Senior Vice Commander, welcomed guests and thanked his fellow veterans for their service.
“Welcome each and every one of you. Each of you that is a veteran, welcome and thank you for your service,” Watkins said.
“This is for you. This is for all veterans no matter what organization they belong to, because we all belong to the United States military. Thank you for your service and your sacrifice, and I hope you will be pleased with what you see today.”
Outgoing Chapter 102 Commander Albert Johnson praised the work of DAV members and the many volunteers that brought the mural to life.
“This event is to celebrate all of the hard work that our chapter members and volunteers put into the hall this spring,” Johnson said.
“This is especially for the mural project spearheaded by Senior Vice Commander Rob Watkins. Our chapter has come a long way and it’s because of all of our dedicated members.”
Several special guests were on hand for the event including Alderman Mike Hansel and Alderwoman Louanna Ottinger.
Several state level DAV representatives also came out for the unveiling ceremony.
Barbara Gilliam, State DAV Commander, was extremely impressed with the work that Chapter 102 has done in Newport and Cocke County.
She considers it one of the best chapters in the region.
“This is a great turn out, and Chapter 102 is very close to my heart,” Hill said.
“I’ve spent a lot of time here over the past few years, and I will say that I consider them one of the top chapters in East Tennessee. They have come a long way and they have done a lot of good work.”
Other special guests included Terry Harris, representative for Congressman Dr. Phil Roe.
Harris was on hand to present a certificate to Charles Lewis Moore.
Moore was one of the first veterans from Cocke County to participate in the history project that is being prepared by Harris.
Sandra Nuttall, Executive Director of East TN Artscapes, spoke briefly during the ceremony and thanked the veterans for their service. Artscapes helped facilitate the grant provided by the Tennessee Arts Council, which made the mural possible.
A highlight of the ceremony was when 11 veterans received Quilts of Valor.
Sheila Strobel of the Parrottsville Quilt Guild helped present the quilts.
Those that received quilts were Horace Brown, Jimmy Cornett, Gary League, Clyde Messer, Dustin Moody, Clayton Presnell, Robert Mousseau, John Southerland, Charles Stewart, Jimmy Townsend and Troy Wilburn.
Vice Commander Watkins took the time before the end of the ceremony to recognize many of the volunteers and organizations that helped with the mural project.
“I want to recognize those who stepped up to help with this,” Watkins said. “The Chamber of Commerce, Artscapes, Keep Cocke County Beautiful, Cocke County Leadership, Linda Lewanski and the Tourism Department, Lowe’s, Arby’s, the Cocke County Sheriff’s Department and others have done so much to help us with this project.”
Alderman Steve Smith and the City of Newport will soon install a new ramp for the DAV building that makes it more accessible for handicapped veterans.
Alderwoman Louanna Ottinger also made a donation that will be used for new lighting around the mural.
Steve Cobb and Kim Reece with Waste Industries donated $1,500, which will be used for a new 35-foot tall flagpole.
Watkins also recognized the many artist that helped with the project. Several students and CCHS Art teacher Myra Amason, spent hours working of the detailed painting.
“Mrs. Myra Amason, art students Libby Asbury and Lucy Jones, myself, and Kim Reece poured in dozens of hours working on the this,” Watkins said.
“Some days we spent eight to 10 hours working on the mural.”
He said that without the dedication of those volunteers none of this would have been possible.
Finally the big moment arrived and members of the Stone Mountain Band played a special military themed song as the mural was unveiled.
The crowd erupted with applause as the final tarp fell revealing the finished mural.
Watkins encourages everyone in the community to stop by and see the new mural.
The DAV Chapter 102 Hall is located at 148 Pine Street in Newport.