In a moving ceremony this morning on the steps of the War Memorial Building, Gov. Bill Haslam paid tribute to seven Tennesseans killed in action, including two soldiers who had been missing in action for several decades, but were finally laid to rest this year.
Family members of the fallen came forward, as the story of each soldier was read, to receive the state's memorial presentation from the governor and the first lady, Crissy Haslam.
"I get to do a lot of meaningful things as governor," Gov. Haslam told reporters after the service. "But I think today is the most, because you get to recognize families that have made such a big sacrifice."
Their names and stories, as they appeared in the memorial program, are after the jump.
Petty Officer 1st Class Aaron Carson Vaughn
Killed in Action August 6, 2011
Petty Officer 1st Class Aaron Carson Vaughn was killed when the helicopter carrying him and 29 other Americans including 22 Navy SEALS was shot down in Afghanistan on August 6, 2011. The 30-year old Troy, Tennessee native was a member of Navy SEAL Team Six based in Virginia Beach, VA and served with the Navy for ten years. Vaughn graduated from Obion County Central High School then attended what is now Indian River State College and earned his associates degree. On his 21st birthday, Aaron enlisted in the Navy shortly after the September 11th attacks. Family members say Vaughn was accepted into the Navy SEALS program, which was his lifelong dream. Relatives describe him as a tough warrior, by a gentle man. Vaughn is survived by his wife Kimberly and their two children, Reagan and Chamberlyn, mother Karen, father Billy, Jr., grandparents Billy, Sr. and Geneva Vaughn as well as grandmother Evelyn Rodenberger.
Lance Corporal Franklin Namon Watson
United States Marine Corps
Killed in Action September 24, 2011
Lance Corporal Franklin Namon Watson was killed when conducting combat operations in Helmand Afghanistan September 24, 2011. Watson was assigned to Company D, 4th Combat Engineer Battalion, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve based out of Knoxville. The Vonore native was a 2008 graduate of Sequoyah High School where he was an accomplished football player. In 2009, Frankie graduated from the Cleveland State Police Academy where he also studied criminal justice. The 21-year old Marine was also a police officer for the Madisonville Police Department. His law enforcement career began as a part-time deputy with the Monroe County Sheriff's Department. LCpl Watson enlisted in the United States Marine Corps Reserve in 2010. Frankie Watson's next of kin is Tennessee Highway Patrol Sergeant Lowell Russell. Watson is also survived by his mother and step-father, Stacy and Jack Couch, father and step-mother, Troy N., Jr. and Katie Watson and his grandparents Troy N., Sr and Edith Imogene Nash Watson.
Specialist 4 Marvin Phillips
United States Army
Killed in Action September 26, 1966
Buried September 26, 2011
Specialist Marvin Phillips was killed in a helicopter crash in Vietnam caused by small arms fire. Phillips was a door gunner on the US-1B Huey that crashed into 9 feet of water off the coast of South Vietnam on September 26, 1966. Specialist Phillips' body was not recovered at the crash scene, leaving him missing in action for 45 years. The Grundy County High School graduate was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division based at Fort Campbell when he went missing. Family members say the 20-year old Palmer, Tennessee native was due to come home, but volunteered for the mission. In 2010, the Vietnam Office for Seeking Missing Persons notified US officials that a villager in Tra Vinh Province had found human remains thought to be related to a US aircraft crash. In 2011, scientists used dental records to positively identify Phillips. Marvin was the oldest of eight children and is survived by his sisters Mary Ruth Shaderick and Lucy West, brothers James Earl Phillips, Jerry Lee Phillips, Bill Phillips, Kirk Phillips, and Glenn Phillips.
Captain Joshua Sean Lawrence
United States Army
Killed in Action October 8, 2011
Captain Joshua Sean Lawrence of Nashville, TN was killed on October 8, 2011 in Kandahar province, Afghanistan when insurgents fired a rocket-propelled grenade at his unit. Lawrence was assigned to the 1st Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team in the 4th Infantry Division. Captain Lawrence graduated from Hume-Fogg High School in 2001. He was a member of the Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity at Austin Peay University where he studied and enlisted in the United States Army in 2005. Captain Lawrence served two tours in Korea before he returned home to marry Brittany Harris on May 31, 2011. The 29-year old Nashville native was deployed seven days later. Captain Lawrence has been posthumously awarded the Bronze Star, the NATO Medal, Combat Action Badge and the Tennessee Fallen Heroes Medal. He is survived by his wife, Brittany Harris Lawrence, his mother, Judy Norman Lawrence, his sister Major Kendra Lawrence, his brother Zachary Lawrence and grandparents, Glespie and Arthenia Norman.
Sergeant First Class Dennis Murray
United States Army
Killed in Action November 21, 2011
Sergeant First Class Dennis Murray of Red Boiling Springs, TN was killed by an improvised explosive device on November 21, 2011 in Kandahar province, Afghanistan while serving his country in Operation Enduring Freedom. Murray was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 34th Armor Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division in Fort Riley, Kansas. Dennis graduated from Hermitage Springs High School in 1991. The 38-year old Macon County native started his career in the United States Army shortly after graduation. Sergeant First Class Murray's awards and decorations include the Korea Defense Service Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal with two Campaign Stars, the NATO Medal and the Combat Badge. Murray was also the first Tennessee Soldier to posthumously be awarded the Tennessee Fallen Heroes Medal. Murray is survived by his wife Shelee Murray and his two children Sebastian and Savannah as well as his mother Wanda Maxey.
Private First Class Frank Primm Jennings
United States Army
Missing in Action April 25, 1951
Buried April 14, 2012
Private Frank Primm Jennings was serving with "E" Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Infantry Division in the United States Army when he went missing in South Korea on April 25, 1951. Private Jennings was posthumously promoted to Private First Class and awarded the Silver Star as well as the Purple Heart for his gallantry in action. The Decaturville native graduated from Parsons High School and was only 19-years old when he went missing in South Korea. According to the Jennings family, a Republic of Korea Army unit discovered a set of skeletal remains in October 1986. However, relatives did not receive confirmation on the identification of Frank Jennings until December 2011. PFC Jennings was finally laid to rest on April 14, 2012. He is survived by his sister Emily Ann Vise and brother Dr. William G. Jennings as well as several nieces and nephews.
Specialist Jason Edens
United States Army
Killed in Action April 26, 2012
Specialist Jason Edens was critically injured during an enemy attack on his unit in Laghman province in Afghanistan on April 15, 2012. On April 26, 2012 Edens died from his injuries in Bethesda, Maryland with his family by his side. The 22-year old Williamson County native was an Infantrymen assigned to 1st Squadron, 13th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, Fort Bliss, Texas. Jason graduated from Franklin High School in 2007 and attended East Tennessee State University where he studied criminal law with the hopes of becoming a TBI agent. In January 2009, Specialist Edens enlisted in the United States Army. Edens received the Purple Heart, NATO Medal, Army Commendation Medal, the Army Achievement Medal and several other awards. Edens was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal and the Tennessee Fallen Heroes Medal. Jason is survived by his wife Ashley Edens, father Jim Edens, mother Janet Crane and step-mother Jan Edens.