Governor Haslam Recognizes Four Veteran State Employees and Pays Tribute to More than 525,000 Tennessee Veterans

Wednesday, November 06, 2013 | 12:30 pm
State Veteran employee honorees Chris Christianson, John Smalls, James Payne
State Veteran employee honorees Chris Christianson, John Smalls, James Payne

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam joined Tennessee Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder and Major General Terry “Max” Haston of the Tennessee Military Department today to recognize four veteran state employees and more than 525,000 Tennessee veterans of all ages and eras.  The Governor’s Veterans Day event was held at the Tennessee Tower Plaza in downtown Nashville.

Specialist Gabriella Saulsberry served nearly three years in the United States Army while working as a Personnel Clerk in Heidelberg, Germany.  After her military service, Saulsberry began her 28 year career with the Department of Human Services.  She has served in several different positions, but is currently a Secretary helping clients with appointments, processing document verifications, contacting caseworkers and connecting clients with community resources in the Memphis area.  Saulsberry is recognized for her military service and her 28-year career with the State of Tennessee.

Sergeant N.E. Christianson is currently an Assistant Commissioner with the Tennessee Department of Transportation.  He has served in various roles over the course of 46 years with TDOT to include his current position as the head of the Office of Operational Efficiency.  Sergeant Christianson enlisted in the United States Air National Guard in 1966 and served as an Administrative Specialist until his honorable discharge in 1972.  Christianson has played a key role in executing TDOT’s top to bottom review and is now focused on implementing some of the significant operational changes that were developed during that review.  Christianson is recognized for his military service and his 46-year career with the State of Tennessee.

Staff Sergeant John Smalls is currently working as a Correctional Officer at the DeBerry Special Needs Facility Housing Unit in Nashville with the Tennessee Department of Correction.  Prior to his current position, Smalls retired from the United States Army after more than 23 years of active duty service to include deployments to Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan.  He received the Iraq Campaign Medal with two campaign stars, four Army Commendation Medals as well as the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary and Service Medals.  Smalls is recognized for his military service and as the state’s newest veteran employee.

Chief Warrant Officer 2 James D. Payne is currently working as an Information Systems Division Help Desk Supervisor.  He has been a state employee for 25 years and 16 of those have been with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.  Payne has served with the Tennessee National Guard for 27 years and transferred to the Army Reserve in October, 2012.  While working for the State of Tennessee, Payne has deployed four times to Iraq and Afghanistan for a total of 41 months. 

“I am proud of this year’s honorees and the 3,060 veterans currently working for the State of Tennessee, and we also want to recognize the significant military service of the more than 525,000 veterans who call Tennessee home,” Haslam said. 

“In the last year, the State of Tennessee has hired 717 employees who have claimed veteran status,” Grinder said.  “It is clear military experience can create excellent, ambitious and disciplined state employees.”

“I am immensely proud of the thousands of Volunteer Soldiers and Airmen who sacrifice time away from their homes and families, often in harm’s way, protecting the freedoms we enjoy,” Haston said.  “Along with the honor of serving one’s country, a tremendous sense of responsibility is placed upon our veterans and their loved ones.”

This year’s Veterans Day Ceremony included music from the 129th Army Band with the Tennessee National Guard, the American Legion Post 17 Color Guard from Gallatin, Army veteran and Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter Chaplain Dorothy Barry.

The National Anthem was performed by Marine veteran Stephen Cochran.  Cochran was critically wounded while serving in Afghanistan and told he would never walk again.  After treatment and physical rehabilitation at the United States Department of Veterans Affairs VA Medical Center in Nashville, Cochran was able to walk, perform and serve as the spokesperson for the federal agency.  Cochran is also committed to raising awareness about veteran suicide prevention and the impact of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  During today’s event, Cochran also performed his song “Pieces” which explains the challenges of veterans coming home and coping with PTSD.

World War I officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, however, fighting ended seven months earlier when an armistice or cease fire between allied nations and Germany went into effect in the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.  November 11, 1918 is generally referred to as the end of the “war to end all wars.”

In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day now known as Veterans Day.

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