Grinder traveled from Nashville for the opportunity to participate in the Thursday afternoon event to pay homage to the 1,300 military veterans in Polk County.
“Anytime I have the opportunity to be with veterans or show support for veterans, I am going to be here,” she said. Grinder is from a military family. She is a veteran. Her husband is a Vietnam veteran, her son is a pilot in the Tennessee National Guard and her late daughter-in-law was killed in Iraq when her helicopter crashed.
“A little over two years ago when my son and his wife were both deployed to Iraq, she gave her life and I can tell you that every single time we see her dedication sign on the interstate, it makes us feel so good knowing people will be reminded, whether they know who she is or not, a sacrifice was made.
“Sacrifices are made every day on behalf of this entire country, sacrifices by a few who gave of their time away from their families, the comforts of their homes. Many are suffering mental and physical wounds and some never came back at all,” she said. “Not everyone can serve in the military. Not everyone should, but everyone can and should support the military.”
Benton Mayor Jerry Stephens said it is a pleasant day when fallen comrades are memorialized by name on public structures.
“I am thankful we can pay ... some kind of honor to our veterans, and for our elected leaders who still have love and respect for the military,” the mayor said.
Polk County Mayor Hoyt Firestone said, “We sometimes forget to honor our veterans except on Memorial Day and Veterans Day” but the sign posted on the East and West ends of the bridge “is a constant reminder of the significance the role our veterans have played throughout the course of our history.”
Firestone credited Commissioner James Woody for initiating the resolution introduced in the General Assembly by state Rep. Eric Watson and in the Senate by state Sen. Mike Bell. He also thanked First Volunteer Bank Market Leader Anna Clark for paying for the signs.
Woody said, “Every time a veteran or veteran’s family crosses this bridge, they’ll see this sign — and this is only a token of our appreciation to the men and women who have served over the years. Even those who have went on, we still remember them and we’re truly thankful for all the effort put forth to bring this about.”
Vietnam veteran and Polk County Veterans Services Officer Ben Bright thanked the elected officials on behalf of all military veterans.
“We really appreciate this honor of having this bridge named for us,” he said. Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey said many people do not understand Tennessee is called the Volunteer State because of the men and women of the state who have volunteered for military service all the way back to the War of 1812.
“I have heard Eastern Tennessee has more veterans per capita than any part of the nation,” he said. He asked the public to thank the Vietnam veterans who returned home to an atmosphere “that we as Americans should be ashamed of. If you see a Vietnam veteran, thank them for their service.”
State Rep. Eric Watson read House Joint Resolution 713 authorizing naming the eastbound and westbound bridges across U.S. Highway 411.