Tennessee National Guardsmen reunited 50 years after crash

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CHUCKEY, TN (WJHL) – Sunday Aug. 7 marks 50 years to the day of the anniversary of the tragic Tennessee National Guard accident off of Chuckey Highway that claimed eight lives.

The five guardsmen who are still alive and their families and friends are planning a ceremony at Brown Springs Baptist Church in Mosheim in their honor.

The truck was traveling on Chuckey Highway right past Chuckey Elementary when it slipped off the road and flipped over. The 1st Battalion 117th infantry was traveling from Greeneville to Johnson City.

“It was a very dreary, rainy day. I felt the truck do sort of an S, and slip, and I thought “oh my goodness”, that’s about all I remember, crash survivor, Donald Dean said.

The accident was blamed on rough weather and faulty brakes.

“Flipped, over in the embankment here and all the 16 men were in there with all that equipment,” guardsmen John Cox said.

The surviving guardsmen said they can’t escape the memories.

“It’s always been on our mind each day for the past 50 years and it will be until we pass on,” Dean said.

The guardsmen said they want to honor their fallen brothers, individually, at Brown Springs Baptist Church in Mosheim on Sunday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Bob Purgason has held onto a piece of a rifle that penetrated his leg, but despite the injury he still thinks of his fallen brothers.

“It went in the inside of my thigh and came out right there at my knee. When I think about the guys that lost their lives that’s what I think about,” Purgason said.

A memorial is set up right off the highway so passersby always remember Aug. 7, 1966. The land was gifted to the survivors and Air Force Junior ROTC helps maintain it. The monument was erected in 2001.

The Sunday meet and greet at Brown Springs will last from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. with an awards and recognition ceremony from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m.

This is the first time these soldiers will be recognized by the state of Tennessee and the Tennessee Army National Guard, the public is welcome to attend.Copyright WJHL 2016. All rights reserved.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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