Community Heroes: Kingsport Army veteran remembered for his words of wisdom


A Kingsport family still mourning the loss of the man they are calling a hero to our nation.

Private First Class, James Kernes passed away less than a year ago due to health problems.

He left behind a large family, but also words of wisdom for those who knew him.

August 6, 2018 is a day Sherri Crawford and her niece, Michelle Crawford, still have to come to terms with.

“He taught you so many things. He was just a giving person. He’s missed very much. He didn’t teach us enough,” Sherri said. “He was a blessing in disguise. He was a dad when I needed a dad the most because my dad had passed quite a while ago.”

Army Veteran James Kernes passed away in August 2018 at the age of 78.

Sherri said, “He had a battle with some lung issues, and he had came home, and he was feeling fine and then all of a sudden, he was just like at peace with himself, and he didn’t struggle or anything like that.”

The Private First Class served in Vietnam after being drafted in 1962.

“He was honorably discharged. He was on reserves until ’68,” Sherri explained.

While alive, Kernes gave bits of knowledge to those around him.

“Even when he was there sick, just telling me things that you know, “Keep your education, go to college, make something good out of yourself because that’s one thing that no one can take away from you, and I miss him,” his niece Michelle recalled. “He was always a teacher and if you didn’t know something, he made sure he would tell you how to do it. He taught me how to can, he taught me how to cook.”

Her grandfather was described as a sharp shooter. One day, Michelle said his family noticed something peculiar while out on the shooting range.

“He was right-handed, but he would always shoot with his left hand. We were outside one day, and we went to a shooting range and he was shooting with his left hand, and I was like, ‘What are you doing?, He said, ‘I always shoot with my left hand.’ And then he made me try and of course I couldn’t do it,” Michelle joked.

Sometimes Kernes would tell stories during his time overseas, especially one about he and an Army buddy’s homesickness.

Sherri explained, “He said, ‘Sherri, he was just so bad.’ He said ‘He was so homesick and I looked over at him’, and he said, ‘Son, you need to suck it up.’ He said, ‘We’re men. We need to fight for this war. We need to fight for this county’.”

The tale she thought was just a tale but was proven to be fact at his funeral, last August.

“I was standing up there at the casket with my mom. That little man, he told me the same story. He said, ‘If wasn’t for James Kernes I probably would have done something stupid he said, but he got me through basic training’,” Sherri said. “He said even in the times that men weren’t supposed to cry, he said we held onto each other.”

The new-found friendship allows her to hear more stories about a piece of her step-dad she never knew.

“We all miss him and my mom misses him every day…she misses him every day,”

The two told Pheben Kassahun he left a large void in his large family and the Kingsport community.

“There were so many people there [Kernes’ funeral]. The fire department showed up, the rescue squad workers, some of the police, because everybody knew Jim Kernes,” Sherri said. “We couldn’t even go into WalMart without somebody hollering, ‘Hey Jim, what are you doing?'”

Sherri said after Kernes passed, she only wanted his ring because that ring held the love that he and her mom, Wilma had.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019  would have been James and Wilma’s 10-year anniversary.

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