The 51st Veterans Day program by United Veterans of Blount County will be held Monday, Nov. 11, at RIO Revolution Church, 3419 E. Lamar Alexander Parkway.
Coffee and refreshments will be served beginning at 9 a.m. with the program starting at 10 a.m.
Past attendees should note that the Monday ceremonies on Veterans Day is a change from previous years when the Blount County program was held on the Saturday prior to the federally designated holiday.
Guest speaker will be Air Force veteran Charles Quagliana. Born in Lockport, New York, Quagliana enlisted in the Air Force in 1949 and spent most of his career around aircraft on the flight line. He served in both the Korean War and the Vietnam War, retiring in 1971 with 22 years of honorable service.
During the Veterans Day program, the dedication of the Donald C. Coulter Memorial Bridge will be held. Coulter was killed in action in the Vietnam War on Aug. 7, 1967. The bridge is located on William Blount Drive near the high school. The bridge signs were placed on Tuesday.
Gerald Thompson and Coulter were close friends growing up. Thompson talked about him on Thursday.
“Donnie was country, just loved the outdoors. We’d come home from (Friendsville High) School and get our beagles and go rabbit hunting and squirrel hunting and fish, play ball. He was just a good friend. Everybody liked Donnie,” Thompson said.
In the summer they’d work together. Coulter would cut the tobacco and Thompson would spear it.
“We didn’t even think about the military. I was about 15 year old and this gentlemen down here that run the store said, ‘Gerald, if this war over in Vietnam keeps escalating like it is, you may have to go there in a couple of years.’ And that’s the first time I ever thought of that. He was right, we did. We had a whole community gone about at one time. Several guys joined the Marines. A lot of them got drafted. A lot of them joined the service,” Thompson said.
“He got drafted, he and I both. I got drafted in August of ’66, and I think he went in in October of ’66. He got killed on August the 7th in 1967. He’s buried out here at Piney Level (Cemetery) behind Lambert Acres Golf Course,” Thompson said.
“I remember the last time I saw him we were rabbit hunting, two days before I left for Vietnam. He left to go to Fort Polk, Louisiana,” Thompson said.
“He was a good friend. He was a good man.”