Hawkins County’s town square Memorial Day service will give citizens a chance to honor the country’s fallen soldiers while also practicing social distancing.
The event will take place on Rogersville’s courthouse lawn at 11 a.m. on Monday, May 25.
“American Legion Hawkins County Post 21 with participation from Joseph Rogers VFW Post 9543, Church Hill VFW Post 9754, Auxiliary Unit 21 and Auxiliary Unit 231 will be honoring our soldiers of Hawkins County and our country that paid the ultimate sacrifice during all wars for the freedom that we enjoy today,” reads the event’s press release.
This will be one of the first group events held since the state begins to reopen after COVID-19.
Students from both Cherokee and Volunteer High School’s NJROTC programs have traditionally participated in the annual event. Due to the COVID-19 school closures, however, these students will be unable to do so.
“We regret that our NJROTC students from Cherokee and Volunteer High Schools will not be able to participate in this years’ program,” said Post 21 Commander Dennis Elkins.
Elkins encouraged all community members and veterans to attend the event.
He also noted that attendees who need seating are advised to bring their own, as none will be provided. All social distancing protocol will be followed at the event.
“We have plenty of room for everyone to space out so they will be safe,” Elkins noted.
He added, “If you can’t come to this service please remember all of the men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice for you and me on Memorial Day.”
Elkins also told the Review that American Legion posts all across the nation have something special planned for this Memorial Day.
American Legion National Commander James W. “Bill” Oxford is urging the public to honor the country’s fallen military heroes at dusk on Memorial Day by lighting candles of remembrance and placing them on front porches.
The commander also suggests that families make signs expressing their gratitude for military sacrifice, photograph friends and family holding up the signs and sharing the images on social media.
“As we continue to follow stay-at-home guidance during the coronavirus pandemic, we must not fail to remember the men and women who fought for our freedoms,” Oxford said in a press release. “Memorial Day observances around the country and beyond are certain to be much different this year, but we can show our respects by lighting and displaying candles to remind everyone why we must never forget the meaning of this sacred holiday.”
He added that different-colored candles can symbolize different remembrances.
“You can light a red candle to remember those who shed their blood in combat and made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our country,” he said. “A white candle can remind us all of the POWs and MIAs who are not yet home from wartime service. A blue candle can symbolize our eternal love of those who did come home but have since left us. Any way you choose, light a candle of remembrance, or three, for the fallen to let the world know that Memorial Day matters deeply to The American Legion, even if ceremonies and public observances are significantly changed this year.”
Stories and images from such Memorial Day observances can be posted on legion.org/legiontown as well as social media channels like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, tagging The American Legion National Headquarters. Participants are asked to use the hashtag #candlesofhonor so images and messages can be aggregated in social media.
A new generation of political enthusiasts is forming in Rogersville, as the Hawkins Co. Teenage Republicans held their first meeting on May 8.
“There hasn’t been a Teenage Republican Party in Hawkins County since my own girls were in their teens, and they are now in their 50s,” Hawkins Co. Republican Women President Eloise Edwards told the Review.
She has been working with Nick Castle, who has worked in politics for over ten years, for several months to find interested teenagers and to make the organization official.
Unlike the group known as “Young Republicans,” which is for members between the ages of 18 and 40, Teenage Republican groups cater to members aged 14 to 18.
“I want our young people to get involved in politics because I feel like they’ve been neglected,” Edwards told the Review. “When they’re 18, we want them to start voting, but they don’t know anything about politics if they haven’t been involved early. I want them to know early what Republicans stand for and let them make up their own minds.”
Edwards told the Review that the group needed at least 10 teenagers in order to be officially recognized as a chapter of the National Teenage Republican Party. At their first meeting, they had exactly 10 in attendance.
Their elected officials consist of Jim Jenkins as President of the club, Ty Edwards as Vice President, Drew Ward as Treasurer and Emma Carmack as Secretary.
In addition to Edwards and Castle, two members of the Josh Gapp for U.S. Congress Campaign as well as Sullivan County Yong Republicans Chairman Cody Woods were in attendance and told the group how an early involvement with politics had impacted their own lives.
“They are the ones who are actually leading the group—I’m just here to help them get organized and offer some advice,” Castle said. “To have 10 young people here is a really good start, because the future of the party is sitting in this room. If you don’t get them involved and teach them how to be leaders now, then the party won’t survive and flourish in the future.”
He encouraged the participants to first asses what it is that they want to do within the party.
“Then, figure out how your talents and passions can fit into the organization,” he said. “Not everybody is meant to be president, but there are lots of other things they can do. I was always told that, if you don’t involve yourself in politics and you don’t vote, you really don’t have anything to complain about if you didn’t take the time to get involved. It’s also just a good way to get involved in your community. Whether it’s state, federal or local, everything involves politics in some way.”
To any other teenagers who want to be involved in the Teenage Republican party, Castle recommends checking out www.gop.com or reaching out to their local party for further resources.
The gathered group was initially very shy. When Castle asked the group, “what does it mean to you to be a Republican,” the group was quiet at first.
After some prompting, a few spoke up.
“It means voting for what is right and moral,” said Drew Ward.
“It means putting someone in office who is going to reflect what you believe,” said Jim Jenkins.
Three of the members also spoke with the Review after the meeting and shared why they were interested in the group.
“We just want to get involved and set something up not only for us but for young kids who are just in elementary school now,” Jenkins told the Review after the meeting. “That way, they will be able to just jump right in and not have to set it up themselves.”
“I want to spread awareness for the Republican party to young people because, nowadays, there aren’t as many young Republicans around as there used to be,” Ward added. I want to be out there, showing what we can do for our community.”
“I’m here to help the economy in the best way we can and keep the organization running as long as we can,” Ty Edwards said.
As far as their future plans, Jenkins told the Review that the group plans to start by helping the Hawkins Co. Republican Party set up for the annual Lincoln Day Dinner. The young group is also considering a booth at Heritage Days to promote the organization.
As far as why they felt drawn to the Republican Party, the boys largely reflected on their family’s affiliation to the party.
“My granddad was elected as a Republican Congressman for this district (Congressman Bill Jenkins), and my dad is a judge here (Judge Douglas Jenkins),” Jenkins told the Review. “I’ve always been around politics—especially the Republican Party. It’s something that I want to follow suit and keep in my family. It’s a strong tradition for us.”
“For me, it all started in the 2016 election when Donald Trump started running,” Ward added. “I started listening to him and learning more. Then, I listened to the other side, and they weren’t going with my beliefs and what I was raised on. So, I decided that I am a Republican and I want to get involved. I voted for the first time during the primaries just a couple months ago. I’m voting for Republicans for the rest of my life as long as they don’t change on me.”
“My whole family is Republicans, and my grandma has been an Alderman (Eloise Edwards) for so many years,” Ty Edwards said. “I’ve just followed in my family’s footsteps as I’ve grown up.”
Neither Jenkins or Edwards have voted yet, as they are not yet 18. However, they both expressed their excitement to do so.
“That was one of the first things I did when I turned 18—I registered to vote,” Ward said. “I felt like that was my duty.”
Hancock County made national news on May 17 after holding steady for a little over a week as the last county in Tennessee without any COVID-19 cases.
Now, all 95 counties in the state have at least one recorded case. No information about the individual patient has been released in order to protect his or her privacy.
“There was an article that was shared in the USA Today about our county, and within 24 hours, we had our first case,” Hancock County EMA Director David Smith said.
He laughed and added, “I thought, ‘well, we should have just been quiet.’ But, as long as the test takes to get results, the patient may have been tested before the news interview was even done.’”
When asked why he thought Hancock County was able to go so long without any cases, Smith said, “A lot of it is just the fact that we have a lower population and are in a fairly secluded area.”
In fact, according to the United States Census Bureau, only 6,549 people resided within the county in 2018.
As far as the number of people tested, Smith also noted that Hancock County’s number naturally is smaller than that of other counties simply because of their small population.
“I’m glad we went this long without a case—I just wish we could have gone longer,” he said. “I would have liked to be the only county that never had a case.”
Though the Review/Eagle reached out to the Tennessee Department of Health on why Hancock County may have gone so long with no COVID-19 cases, they were not able to give a definitive answer.
“We don’t know scientifically why this is the case, and we’re not able to speculate on that,” Health Council Coordinator Jayne Harper said.
The county’s rural location and lack of tourists may have contributed to its lack of COVID-19 cases.
“Even in Hamblen County, for example, it might look like a small county, but it’s got two major four-lanes passing through it,” Smith said. “So, how many people pass through there that are not from that area? That’s the same for Hawkins or Knox Counties—people who are not from the area might pass through and stop at restaurants of convenience stores. We don’t have that in Hancock County. It’s pretty much just our local people in the area. I heard someone say once, ‘Nobody finds us by accident. They have to come looking for us.’”
However, Smith noted that, though there are few passers-by visiting Hancock County, many of its citizens work outside of the county. Thus, if these workers were deemed ‘essential’ and required to work during the pandemic, they were still traveling into other counties and back.
“You hear a lot of people say, ‘they’re back in the hills, and nobody ever goes over there,’” Smith said. “That may be true, but a lot of our people go other places. Maybe three quarters of our working population work outside of this county.”
“Everybody tried to follow the recommendations from the state,” Smith said. “A lot of businesses limited the number of people who could be in at once, put up screens and the workers wear masks. The restaurants were only serving curbside and drive-thru until that order was lifted. It was pretty much the same with the government offices, too. But we don’t even have many businesses here—there’s only about four restaurants, a couple of dollar stores and one grocery store. Everybody tried to do what they could.”
He also noted that there have been several testing sites set up throughout the county during the pandemic.
“The opportunity to be tested has been there,” he said. “But, a lot of people here think ‘if I’m not feeling sick, I’m not going around people who have had to deal with sick people.’ I have several elderly people in my family, and, during flu season, their doctor will tell them, ‘Don’t come down here to the office if you’re just coming for a checkup. You don’t want to catch something here.’ I think that’s part of the reason our testing numbers are lower than some other counties.”
The Review/Eagle was unable to speak with Hancock Co. Mayor Thomas Harrison before press time, but he has said in published reports that he feels the resiliency of Hancock County’s people along with divine blessing has kept the area free of COVID-19 for this long.
“Our people have always been resilient,” Harrison said. “We’ve had to be when you live as rural as we are. Though the climate has changed, snows used to stop school for maybe 30 days. So, people were prepared with their food supplies. They had canned beans and had put up their dried goods and meat. They were able to sustain without having to come to town. We’ve still got enough of our older generation that, through COVID-19, a lot of them were prepared.”
He went on to add that the people of Hancock County “have good, common sense” and are “heavily churched”—other explanations he offered for the lack of COVID-19 up to this point.
“I can’t help but think that the good Lord is a whole lot of the reason for that,” he said in published reports. “The dedication and the love for the Lord that Hancock County has is the reason we’ve had such good luck with COVID-19.”
ROGERSVILLE — The Hawkins Co. Election Commission will meet in a special-called meeting on Tuesday, June 1, 2020, at 1 p.m., for an election workers workshop, to discuss COVID-19 protocols for early voting and election day, and to lock absentee ballot boxes.
Administrator of Elections Crystal Rogers said the meeting will be held in the Election Commission’s conference room and is open to the public.
If any accommodations are needed for individuals with disabilities who wish to be present at the meeting, please contact Rogers at 423-272-8061, or by e-mail at email@example.com. Requests should be made as soon as possible but at least two business days prior to the scheduled meeting in order for the entity to provide such needed aid or service.