BLOUNTVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL)- As many are out enjoying a fun holiday weekend, many families spend Memorial Day contemplating honor and sacrifice.
“It’s been 54 years, and it seems like it happened yesterday, just to have somebody show up and say your family member is killed,” said Sullivan County Commissioner Joyce Crosswhite said, recalling the day she found out her twin brother died in Vietnam. “And then it took probably a week before they returned his body.”
The Blountville native described the holiday as all too painful.
“I don’t think any of us really realized how dangerous Vietnam was,” she said. “We were young. You don’t think about young people not coming back from war. It was just pure shock because we thought he was in the military police, confined, but no it was more dangerous than I think we realized.”
Her brother was drafted and sent to Vietnam. News Channel 11 asked her if he wanted to go.
“Yes, I think down deep. I know people say this, but Roy was just a good person,” she said of her brother who served as the man of the house after their father died in high school. “He was ‘a basketball star.’ That’s how he got into Milligan, and he just took care of us. He mowed yards in the summer.”
Neal was just 21 years old when he died on May 28, 1968.
“He did go down fighting. He had a gun on the back of a Jeep, and the Jeep was on a convoy,” Crosswhite said. “They were moving at night at like 10:30 at night, and the Vietnamese started firing on them. Well, he and two other officers stayed there so the convoy could get through. They fought, they even pulled out their sidearms and were shooting back at the Vietnamese, and a rocket hit them. So, the Jeep was flipped over, and they all three were killed instantly.”
Decades later, she still struggles to go to the memorials where his name is read.
“Memorial Day is about military personnel that has lost their lives,” she said. “You’ve heard the saying, ‘They gave it all.’ It’s not Veterans Day. Veterans Day is to honor all the veterans.”
A bridge was even dedicated in Neal’s honor on August 28, 2010.
“Stop and think. Without this military, what would this country be? We wouldn’t have the freedoms that we have now,” she said.
Crosswhite says the pain of losing her twin brother – the reason for the holiday – is something she wants people to understand.
“I hope each and every person stops and remembers these military, they gave the right for them to do all of this. They gave them today to do whatever they wanted to, and I hope they remember that.”