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Voters can honor veterans through state’s new program

George Hatcher, a member of the famous Erwin Nine, said when he heard about a new statewide program that allows individuals to dedicate their vote to veterans, he felt honored.
“It makes you feel proud and in a way humbled to realize someone remembers you after all these years,” Hatcher said. “It makes you feel pretty good to be honored after almost 70 years since I was a prisoner of war.”
Hatcher said he was captured and held for a year in 1944 while serving in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II.
“I think this program is very appropriate and fitting to honor the veterans,” Hatcher said.
Hatcher said the program gave him an extra way to connect with his daughter Beth Briggs who lives in Georgia.
The Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett’s office announced the launch of the “Tennessee Honor Vote” program on Oct. 3.
“A new page has been developed on the Secretary of State’s website where people may sign up and dedicate a personal message to one or more active or retired members of the armed forces,” a Secretary of State release states.
Each individual who signed up for the program receives an “Honor Vote” button in the mail, according to the release. The release also states the program will also be offered for future elections.
Election Commission Administrative Assistant Teresa McFadden said she participated in the program to honor her father Charles E. Johnson. Johnson served in U.S. Marines and fought in the battle of Iwo Jima during World War II, McFadden said.
“I wanted to honor him for his service,” she said.
McFadden said she has always thought of those who have fought for her freedom and right to vote when she comes to the poll.
“I feel like all of the veterans have honored us no matter what war or branch of service they have been a part of,” McFadden said. “That is why we can come in here and vote.”
McFadden said during early voting, many veterans who came to vote were interested in learning more about the program.
“A lot of people have been showing their VA card, so many service connected people have been picking up the information,” McFadden said. “For them I think it means a lot, too. I’ve noticed that many of the voters who are service connected are asking about it.”
McFadden said she directs veterans to the state’s website, which lists all the veterans who have been honored by vote this year.
“It is interesting to go on there and look at the list,” McFadden said.
Unicoi County Administrator of Elections Sarah Bailey said the program promotes voting participation. She said the right to vote enables citizens to play a role in every level of government that impacts their daily lives.
“This year obviously the most attention is focused on the presidential race, but here we’ve got a U.S. Senate, U.S. House, Tennessee House and two city elections,” Bailey said. “It’s important for people to take an interest and try to educate themselves and show up to the ballot box to makes their wishes known. It’s the best way for people to have a voice in how they want their community governed.”
Bailey also commented on the overall concept of the program.
“It sheds a light on the sacrifice that the veterans have given, whether it was time or whether it was their health and in some cases their lives, to give the people the right to lead the government through the ballot box,” Bailey said. “I think it’s very important for people who have family members that have put themselves in harm’s way to have a special way to honor them when they do come to vote.”

By Kayla Carter
Staff Writer
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