By Matt Masters
Tennessee Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder was awarded a plaque for her service in the recognition of Gold Star Mothers in Tennessee on Monday at Mt. Juliet City Hall.
Grinder, a retired colonel in the Army, will retire from her position as Gov. Bill Haslam’s final term comes to an end. Haslam appointed Grinder as commissioner in 2011.
“I was honored to be able to serve our country for over 35 years and to be able to set aside my personal life in order to serve my country,” Grinder said. “Some people may think of it as a sacrifice, but I always felt that it was an honor. I was very proud of my military service and glad that I was able to do so. My husband, Ernie, served 30 years. Our son is serving; his wife was killed in Iraq shortly after I came back from Afghanistan.
“Part of what I loved in the military was taking care of my soldiers. When I had the opportunity to serve over half a million veterans in the state of Tennessee, I felt this would give me that kind of rewarding service to be able to take care of our veterans, so while I’m no longer in uniform, I feel that I’m in a way still taking care of my soldiers.”
Lucricia Cole, former president of the local Lake Forest Acres Garden Club, presented the plaque to Grinder and said she was proud of the work and support from Grinder and the Tennessee Department of Veterans Affairs to remember Gold and Blue Star families in Mt. Juliet and Wilson County.
“This means everything, because our military doesn’t get the justice that they need, and being able to remember families and mothers who have lost their child is very important,” Cole said.
Grinder said civilians can help support service members and veterans through remembrance and acknowledgement of the sacrifices of others every day.
“Saying ‘Thank you for your service’ is nice, but what’s even better are actions. So being able to show thanks and honor for our veterans is important, and sometimes that’s in the form of community events that honor veterans, but even more than that, I think that every day should be Veterans Day in Tennessee. Understanding the value that veterans bring to the work force and hiring these veterans that can bring great leadership, reliability, being able to work under pressure,” Grinder said. “I think that for the most part it’s just remembering – remembering that freedom is not free. When you see the Gold Star and Blue Star markers outside of City Hall, those are nice reminders that as we’re living our life of freedoms – the freedom of the press, freedom of speech and all of the freedoms we have – they are because of those who willing to serve.”
Others in attendance included Terry Yates, the Tennessee president of the Vietnam Veterans of America, state Sen. Mark Pody, Mt. Juliet Mayor Ed Hagerty, City Manager Kenny Martin and District 3 Commissioner Art Giles.