Governor Haslam Memorializes Seven Service Members

Friday, May 25, 2018 | 05:34pm

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, First Lady Crissy Haslam, Tennessee Department of Veterans Services
Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder and Tennessee Military Department Adjutant General, Major General Terry “Max” Haston paid tribute to seven service members who gave the ultimate sacrifice during the state’s Memorial Day service today.

U.S. Army Private First Class Reece Gass of Greeneville was presumably killed on January 14, 1945.  Gass was
serving in Belgium in World War II when he was killed in action when enemy fire destroyed his tank.  He was 20 years old.  He was buried in an unmarked grave in Luxembourg under a headstone that read “Here Rests in Honored Glory a Comrade in Arms Known but to God” until he was exhumed and identified in 2016.  Gass was laid to rest on June 10, 2017.

 U.S. Air Force Technical Sergeant William O’Kieff of Murfreesboro was presumably killed while serving in support of the Vietnam War on November 27, 1970 along with five other American crew members, 73 Republic of South Vietnam service members and their wives and children.  The Flight Engineer from Middle Tennessee was 38-years old at the time of the crash.  His remains were not recovered until the 1980’s and were not identified until 2017. O’Kieff was laid to rest on June 17, 2017.

 U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Michael Nelson of Antioch was killed in the line of duty during a night time training exercise off the coast of Oahu on August 15, 2017.  Two 25th Aviation Regiment UH-60 Black Hawks were involved with the exercise, when the flight crews lost contact with each other.  Nelson was 30 -years old and served 11 years in the Army.  His
service included previously being stationed with the 101st Airborne at Fort Campbell, two deployments to Afghanistan and a deployment to South Korea.   

 U.S Army Staff Sergeant William Turner of Nashville was presumably killed on December 13, 1943 while serving in World War II.  Turner was part of the flight crew of “Hell’s Fury” which was one of 219 B-26 aircrafts flying from
England to Holland for a bombing raid when they were struck by anti-aircraft artillery.  The 20-year-old Aerial
Engineer’s remains were not recovered until 2007.  Turner was finally laid to rest on August 22,

 U.S. Marine Corps Corporal Henry Andregg of Whitwell was presumably killed during the Battle of Tarawa in
World War II on November 20, 1943. Andregg was among the first wave of heroic troops assaulting the island
at the time of his death and was among 1,000 Marines and Sailors killed in the infamous battle.  He was 22 -years old at
the time of his death and was buried in an unidentified grave until 2016 when he was exhumed.  Andregg was identified
in May, 2017 and laid to rest on August 25, 2017.

U.S. Army Corporal Thomas Mullins of Harriman went missing on November 2, 1950 while serving in the
vicinity of Unsan, North Korea during the Korean War.  He was 18-years old.  A former prisoner of war explained to
American authorities that Mullins died while being held in Prisoner of War (POW) camp in North Korea.   Mullins
remains were not turned over to Americans until 1993 and were not positively identified until 2017.  Mullins was born
on March 29, 1932, declared deceased by the Army on March 29, 1951 and was buried on March 29, 2018.

 U.S. Army Corporal Jason Hovater of Lake City was killed in the Battle of Wanat in Afghanistan on July 13, 2008.  Hovater’s unit was attacked by more than 200 enemy fighters in what has been deemed one of the deadliest battles in the war in Afghanistan with the U.S. and coalition soldiers outnumbered by at least 2 to 1.  Nine soldiers were killed and 15 were wounded.  Hovater was posthumously promoted and awarded the Silver Star for valor.  Hovater’s father and mother, Gerald and Kathy Hovater, received the Gold Star Family proclamation as well as the Honor and Remember flag, during the ceremony.

 “By observing these lives lost, we have walked through 75 years of wars and quite a bit has changed since the call came to serve in World War II,” Haslam said.  “The observance of Memorial Day is a time to merge the past, present and future to ensure every generation remembers the sacrifice of these heroes and their families.”

“As I look at the flag, I think of the threads that bind us to the legacies of each of these heroes,” Grinder said.  “They took several steps that made several decisions before they took their final breath and we are connected to those
steps through our freedom and our flag.”

“Over this Memorial Day weekend it is important to remember why we have this holiday and remember those who have
given the last full measure to the protection of this country and the freedoms we enjoy,” said Haston.  “Tennesseans
have a proud heritage of always answering the call to duty and many of those have paid the ultimate sacrifice.”