By Judge Brian Addington, Gray
In November 1982, the United States completed construction of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. My Dad is a Vietnam veteran, and he was very interested in the construction of the memorial, as he had friends die in the war.
Although quite controversial at first, the site has become a beloved, hallowed place, where family and friends of fallen veterans search for their loved ones’ names and then etch their names on a piece of paper to take home with them. I was honored to experience “The Wall” with my Dad in the mid-1980s.
After its construction, Jimmy Fortune, a singer with the Statler Brothers, went to the Wall to see it for himself. While there, he listened to stories about lost loved ones and friends, and he went home and co-wrote “More Than a Name on A Wall” as a tribute to their stories. That song is one of my all-time favorites. You can listen to the song here.
Every year, the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation conducts an educational conference. The conference brings together all stakeholders of the workers’ compensation system in Tennessee, including injured workers, employers, attorneys, medical providers, insurance companies, safety people, and Bureau employees. I really look forward to the conference, as we get to (somewhat) interact with the other stakeholders, laugh and have serious times, and also learn a little bit.
One of the more serious times involves a slide presentation entitled the “Worker Memorial” by assistant Bureau administrator Jeff Francis, where he highlights the employees who lost their lives during the preceding year and how they died. We spend a moment of silence remembering them and their families and praying that in the coming year there won’t be quite so many.
It would be sad indeed if we stopped there. But a special event has occurred afterward the last few years, as the conference hosted a Kids’ Chance reception and auction. If you don’t know, Kids’ Chance is a charity that supplies scholarships for education to children whose parents were killed or seriously injured at work. What’s really neat is that these last few years, a few recipients of the scholarships have spoken about their parent(s), what they mean(t) to them, and what Kids’ Chance has given them the opportunity to do.
As I’ve reflected these last few years about those who’ve died and then seen the love their children have for them, it has given me pause to remember what I am thankful for and to remember those names, too, are more than names on a wall.