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'We remember, we celebrate' | Bridge named in honor of East Tennessee veteran killed in action in 2008

Sgt. Michael H. Ferschke Jr. was killed in August 2008. The bridge named after him honors his sacrifice for his country.

BLOUNT COUNTY, Tenn. — Over the weekend, a bridge was named in honor of Marine veteran Sgt. Michael H. Ferschke Jr. from East Tennessee. The bridge passes over U.S. Highway 129 and is on Hunt Road.

Ferschke Jr. wanted to be a marine from a young age, according to his mother. 

"He was a daredevil," Robin Ferschke said. "He had that contagious laughter, this amazing giggle and he was good and loving to everybody in anybody he knew." 

Ferschke Jr. was killed in action in August 2008. His wife was pregnant with their first child when he died and the family was later forced to leave the U.S. due to issues with their visa.

According to reports, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to grant permanent residency status to his widow. Then-President Barack Obama signed the bill into law, according to reports, giving her permission to live in the U.S.

The bridge on State Route 335 is now named, "Michael H. Ferschke Jr. Memorial Bridge." And for his dad, it's more than just a road. 

"Every time I go by, I do say that bridge is named after my son and that means a lot," Michael Ferschke Sr., said.

As for Ferschke Jr.'s teenage son, he never met his father. He keeps a picture of him in his room as a way to remember.

"I love my dad, I wish he could still be here with us," Michael Ferschke III, said. "I'm proud of him, he's my hero." 

Sgt. Michael H. Ferschke Jr. is survived by his wife, Hotaru Ferschke, and was buried in Knoxville at the Tennessee State Veterans Cemetery. He also has a bust at the Blount County Public Library. 

"Between the bust and the bridge, his legacy will live on — even though nobody knew him. Well, not everybody knew him here, but it's like everybody loves him. He just brings sunshine and love, I think, to everybody," Robin said. 

Ferschke Jr.'s ceremony served as a reminder for all men and women who lost their lives protecting their country. The bridge will now connect the loved ones that were left behind. 

"I think about Michael every day, sometimes more than once," she said. "I say goodnight to him every night and tell him how much I love him and to continue watching over us and his son and his family."

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