Bearden welcomes Congressional Medal of Honor recipients for official ceremony


Ella Parker

A Black Hawk helicopter lands at Bearden on Sept. 7 for a Congressional Medal of Honor ceremony.

The field next to the Jim Smelcher Athletics Complex is normally used by linemen on the Bearden football team for their work with football blocking sleds.

Earlier this month, though, it welcomed an unusual guest – a Black Hawk helicopter.

A group of teachers, including Colonel Andre Harrell, Chief Julie Cunningham, Mrs. Melissa Thomasson, Mrs. Lauren Andrejko, and Coach Morgan Shinlever, collaborated to contact the Congressional Medal of Honor Society to plan the details, as Bearden was one of several area schools that helped to host the event.

A Black Hawk helicopter delivered Major General Patrick Henry Brady and Staff Sergeant Ty Michael Carter to the JSAC field on Sept. 7. 

Many Bearden clubs and organizations presented the honorees and led them around the school. The Congressional Medal of Honor winners were then honored in a ceremony in the Bearden auditorium. 

The presentation of Brady and Carter was a valuable addition to the ROTC curriculum in addition to the BHS social studies curriculum.

“I think it was a concerted effort between social studies and some of the teachings they’ve been doing and the Congressional Medal of Honor, the meaning of it, and what we did down here with (former Bearden ROTC teacher) Chief Dickson, Randy Dickson, and myself,” Colonel Harrell said. 

Mrs. Thomasson, a social studies teacher, has found it extremely valuable for her students to experience seeing the honorees, especially since there are only around 3,500 Congressional Medal of Honor winners.

“It is an honor for students to meet those men and be able to have access to them not just from a textbook or TV or the news,” Mrs. Thomasson said.

Congressional Medal of Honor winners also visited other East Tennessee schools such as Farragut and Morristown East, but their message displayed their key characteristics at every school. 

Colonel Harrell said it is important for students to view real-life heroes that serve as role models for the country and younger generations. 

“Some of the key tenets associated with the Congressional Medal of Honor are courage, commitment, citizenship, patriotism, integrity, and sacrifice,” Colonel Harrell said. “And that is sort of the foundational attribute, those characteristics, that I think you look for in any good citizen of the United States.” 

Added ROTC cadet Jacob Reinbolt: “I think it’s just a good idea to see a real life hero. You see heroes everyday with our resource officers and some of our teachers, but these are guys that you kind of hear about and you’re like, ‘This can’t be real.’

“To actually meet one of those people in person was a great honor.”