I say quite often that Shelby County is the greatest county in Tennessee. Many things make our county great. Shelby County’s more than 52,000 veterans are at the top of the list.
Earlier this week, we came together for our 4th Annual Shelby County Government Military Veteran Employee Appreciation Breakfast. It is our way to thank those who have been in service and of service to our community. We also announced our first Shelby County Veteran of the Year, retired Staff Sergeant Johnny Toy. Staff Sergeant Toy is a disease intervention specialist with the Shelby County Health Department and served in the U.S. Army from 1987 to 2012. He is a decorated soldier who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Staff Sergeant Toy was chosen for his conscientious work in County Government, our community, the faith community, and in education.
No group deserves our appreciation more than the women and men who have served their country in uniform. They were prepared to sacrifice everything for something you can't buy or touch or put a price on, American values, freedom, and the protection of others.
At our 4th Annual Shelby County Government Military Veteran Employee Appreciation Breakfast we recognized those who served our country.
Today, there are more than 20 million military veterans in our country. Shelby County’s more than 52,000 military veterans represent a larger per capita population than a majority of states. It is also more than any other county in Tennessee.
I’m reminded today of the history of military service and our most consequential periods. During the Civil War, for instance, nearly 200,000 slaves, ex-slaves, and free blacks volunteered to join the Union cause and fight for abolition. Tens of thousands of them died, including many from West Tennessee. Their military service is what changed the country’s resolve around African American citizenship, paving the way for the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments to the Constitution. Frederick Douglass wrote: "[L]et the Black man get upon his person the brass letter, U.S., let him get an eagle on his button, a musket on his shoulder, and bullets in his pocket, there is no power on earth that can deny he has earned the right to citizenship in the United States."
Offering a verbal "thank you" to our veterans should be a given. In Shelby County, we have also tried to thank them through our actions. Recently, Shelby County doubled the staff of the Veterans Services Office, which effectively doubles their access to the benefits and services that they’ve earned. Veterans and their family members reach out to the office for information on health services, including mental health services, home loans, disability claims, and pensions. This expanded staff ensures more resources reach veterans and their loved ones.
We have also opened a second Veterans Services Office in Millington. Today, Millington is home to the Naval Support Activity Mid-South. But we have had a military installation in Millington for decades. It is also where a significant percentage of military members have retired. This second office in Millington puts the services they need closer to many of our veterans.
We will always be thankful for the service, the courage, and the sacrifices our women and men in uniform have made to safeguard us and our freedoms. We’re thankful today, on Veterans Day, and every day.
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