BLOUNT COUNTY, Tenn. — At a one-lane bridge over a small creek in Blount County, you'll now find an official nod to a Marine who gave as much as anyone could to his country.
This weekend, the county dedicated the bridge on Middlesettlements Road in honor of Lance Corporal Oscar Robert Parrott, a Maryville native killed in Vietnam in 1967. Parrott is now one of many from East Tennessee with roadside reminders of their service and sacrifice.
Because Memorial Day is a federal holiday to honor those killed during military service, below is a brief list of some bridges in the region named for veterans killed in the line of duty.
- Captain Marcus Ray Alford bridge in Nashville on State Route 840. Alford was a helicopter pilot killed in Iraq in Feb. 2010. He was a graduate of South-Doyle High School in Knoxville and Carson-Newman College.
- Alexander "Sandy" Bonnyman bridge at the Knox County and Blount County line. The large bridge where the Pellissippi Parkway crosses the Tennessee River was renamed for Bonnyman in 1997. Bonnyman received the Medal of Honor for his bravery after he was killed leading a group that broke through Japanese defenses at the ferocious battle at Tarawa during World War Two.
- Sgt. Jesse J. Coffey bridge on Rutledge Pike at mile marker 35. The Grainger County native was killed in action in South Vietnam in 1966. Coffey is buried at the U.S. National Cemetery in Knoxville.
- Chief Warrant Officer Daniel Cole bridge at I-140 and Westland Drive in Knox County. Cole served as a pilot in the Tennessee National Guard and died in July 2011 (along with Thomas Williams) when his helicopter crashed during a military exercise in Campbell County.
- PVC Patrick Fitzgibbon bridge on Rutledge Pike in Knox County. The bridge was dedicated on Aug. 1, 2011, on the anniversary of his death in 2009. Fitzgibbon was killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan.
- Elbert Kinser bridge in Greene County. The Medal of Honor recipient was shot in the leg during the Battle of Okinawa in World War 2. When a group of medics came to his aid, an enemy grenade landed at their feet. Kinser threw his body on the explosive and absorbed the blast to save the medics.
- Corporal Lawrence Lett bridge in East Knox County. Lett served as a Marine when he was killed in action in Korea in 1952. He received the Navy Cross and Silver Star. The bridge is just north of East Brushy Valley Drive.
- Lt. Charles "Chip" Pilkington, Jr. bridge in West Knox County. A graduate of the University of Tennessee and Bearden High School who was killed in Vietnam.
- Lt. Robert Saunders bridge in West Knox County. Saunders was a Knoxville native who served in the Marines and was killed in the 1970s when his plane crashed in Japan during a routine mission.
- Mitchell W. Stout bridge in Loudon County where Interstate 75 crosses the Tennessee River. Stout received the Medal of Honor posthumously for throwing his body on a grenade to save the lives of fellow troops in Vietnam.
- Sgt. Morgan William Strader bridge in Cumberland County. Strader was a Marine killed in the battle for Fallujah in November 2004. In 2013, the bride in Crab Orchard was dedicated in his honor.
- First Lieutenant Thomas Williams bridge at the intersection of I-140 and Bluegrass Road in Knox County. Williams served in the Tennessee National Guard and died in July 2011 (along with Daniel Cole) when their helicopter crashed during a military exercise in Campbell County.
Reporter's note: The list above is not comprehensive. There are many others. Please feel free to add to our list in the comments section of this article.
The bridges listed above specifically honor those killed while serving in the armed forces, the purpose of Memorial Day. There are many other bridges named for veterans who survived and returned home to contribute to their communities. For example, the Buck Karnes bridge honors a Knoxville soldier who received the Medal of Honor during the First World War and returned to his hometown to serve on the police force.