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Home News Nashville Post 5 to host York Centennial Celebration

Nashville Post 5 to host York Centennial Celebration

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A century after Alvin York took on a machine gun nest and almost singlehandedly captured 132 Germans in the Argonne Forest, American Legion Nashville Post 5 will host a state and national celebration of the life of Tennessee’s most decorated World War I soldier.

The Oct. 27 event is open to the public and starts at 11 a.m. on the grounds of the Tennessee State Capitol, at the York statue on the corner of Charlotte Avenue and 6th Avenue North.

“Our program is not only a celebration of Sgt. York and what he did, but an opportunity to educate young people on the sacrifices made in that war,” says Charles Harrison, chairman of the Sergeant York Planning Committee and past commander of Post 5. “There are some people who have never heard of him, even in Tennessee. A hundred years is a long time.”

On Oct. 8, 1918, York – then a corporal – was part of a patrol ordered to take out a German machine-gun emplacement preventing his regiment’s advance. When half the men were killed, York took command, advancing alone as the survivors stood guard over a handful of prisoners. He drew on his hunting skills to pick off at least 20 German gunners, prompting others to surrender; by the time they made it back to the American lines, they had 128 men and four officers in tow. For his actions, York received the Medal of Honor. Gen. John Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Forces, called him the “greatest civilian soldier” of World War I. By an act of the Tennessee General Assembly, a statue was erected in York’s honor and dedicated in 1968.





When Tennessee State Rep. Sam Whitson approached Post 5 about hosting a York centennial event last spring, Harrison and the post’s executive committee immediately accepted the challenge. In four months, they’ve raised nearly $20,000, largely through the efforts of former businessman and Post 5 member Henry Davis, who spent hours calling contacts from coast to coast. Other contributors include Brentwood Post 156, Columbia Post 19 and Jamestown Post 137, near York’s hometown of Pall Mall.

The program will include music from the 129th Army Band, a reading of York’s Medal of Honor citation and “In Flanders Fields,” and a wreath-laying by local Eagle Scouts. Soldiers from the Southeast Area Medical Support Group Headquarters Nashville, Army Reserve Medical Command, will present the colors.

Special guests will include at least 20 members of the York family. Retired Army Col. Gerald York, York’s grandson, will be keynote speaker. Deborah York, York’s great-granddaughter and executive director of the Sergeant York Patriotic Foundation, will also deliver remarks.

Harrison says Post 5 is honored to organize the event, which will pay tribute not just to York’s military exploits but his determination to bring education to the Upper Cumberland area where he grew up. In the decade after the war, York was tireless in raising money to build an agricultural institute, which operates today as a public high school in Jamestown.

“It’s what he did when he came back from serving that really distinguishes him from lots of other veterans who received medals and other recognition,” Harrison says.

Norman Nuismer, a past commander of Tennessee's 6th District and Nashville Post 5, agrees.

"For Sgt. York to do what he did on the battlefield is one thing, but what he did afterward is even more special," he says. "There are some folks who think heroes come from the big cities, but they don't. For Sgt. York and other veterans in our state to give so much, coming from little spots on the road, is amazing."

York was present in Paris when The American Legion was founded in 1919 and was one of the organization’s charter members. In 1925, he was the honored guest at the Department of Tennessee’s convention, which convened in Nashville’s brand-new War Memorial Building. Local Legionnaires were given a 100-year lease for offices there, which they still occupy. Four posts merged to form Nashville Post 5, which was chartered April 21, 1926.

Read more about Alvin York’s legacy in an April 2017 American Legion Magazine feature.

 


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