Family and friends of the late PFC Billy Gene Anderson gathered with local and state public officials, veterans, and many others Thursday morning at the site of the bridge that will now forever bear his name at Dry Creek over U.S. 70 in Dowelltown. PFC Anderson died just over two years ago while serving his country in Afghanistan
The formal dedication of the "PFC Billy Gene Anderson Memorial Bridge" featured a prayer by local minister Bobby Thomason, the posting of colors and a gun salute by the Veterans Honor Guard of the Upper Cumberland, remarks by County Mayor Mike Foster, State Senator Mae Beavers, State Representative Terri Lynn Weaver, and Don Smith, Assistant Commissioner of the Department of Veterans Affairs, the singing of the Star Spangled Banner by Representative Weaver, and the leading of the gathering in the pledge of allegiance.
With the unveiling of the road sign by the bridge, Anderson's widow, Caitlin and mother, Marlene were presented replicas as well as copies of the act, adopted by both the State House and Senate and signed by the Governor, naming the bridge in his honor.
"It means the world to me", said Caitlin Anderson. "There's no better way to honor him right now. That way my daughter can see this for years to come and appreciate it more as she gets older. My grandchildren and my family can just love this every time they drive by," she said. Anderson's daughter Lilly Grace turns three years old in August.
"I am so proud of Billy," said Marlene Goodwin, mother of the fallen hero. "It means the world to me for him to be recognized," she said.
State Senator Mae Beavers said the program was a fitting occasion for a brave soldier. "It's a special day. We should always honor those who gave their lives to defend our freedom. I also want to thank the family for the sacrifice they made. Their loved one volunteered to go out and defend our country, defend freedom all over the world and we appreciate it very much. This is just a small token of what the community and state can do to honor those fallen soldiers," she said.
"Its really a sad thing in a way but then its really good too that we honor people who have done so much for our country and realize the sacrifices their families have made," said County Mayor Mike Foster.
"The real important part about doing this is that it leaves a lasting memorial so that not only every time the family drives up and down this road and crosses this bridge, they will see this sign, they will be paying tribute to Billy," said Commissioner Smith. " Even strangers, as they come by will see it. They will recognize the significance. It's a continuous reminder to our citizens everywhere, the sacrifices that our soldiers make on their behalf," he said.
" This is about honoring a young man who gave his ultimate sacrifice and for him, his love for his family and nation," said Representative Weaver. " It truly was a tribute and really spoke loudly of all the people who attended this event. There were so many people who turned out for this and that speaks for itself. The patriotism and the heart of the American citizen is still very grateful for these men and women who give their lives for us. I commend the community and our veterans who were here who have fought in years past, for honoring this young man, Billy Gene Anderson," she said.
The following is the text of the Act, adopted by the Tennessee General Assembly, and signed by the Governor:
AN ACT to name a segment of U.S. Highway 70 in DeKalb County in honor of the late Private First Class Billy Gene Anderson, United States Army.
WHEREAS, from time to time, the members of this General Assembly have seen fit to name
certain highways and bridges to honor the memory of those courageous members of the United
States Armed Forces who gave their lives while serving our nation; and
WHEREAS, no person is more deserving of this honor than the late Private First Class (PFC)
Billy Gene Anderson, United States Army, who made the ultimate sacrifice for his country on May 17, 2010, while serving in Afghanistan; and
WHEREAS, a young man who counted God, country, and family as the most important
things in his life, PFC Anderson was a talented musician who taught himself to play guitar and piano at the age of fifteen; and
WHEREAS, a devout Christian, Billy Gene Anderson was a wonderful father, husband,
brother, son, and friend to many; and
WHEREAS, PFC Anderson followed the patriotic tradition for which DeKalb County and the
Volunteer State are renowned by reporting for basic training in the United States Army soon after
graduating from DeKalb County High School in 2009; and
WHEREAS, on August 24, 2009, while he was participating in basic training, PFC
Anderson's wife, Catlin Potter Anderson, gave birth to their beautiful daughter, Lilly Grace Anderson; and
WHEREAS, after graduating with honors from basic training at Fort Leonard Wood on
October 16, 2009, PFC Anderson left that same day for Fort Benning, where he completed
paratrooper training; and
WHEREAS, he then was transferred to Fort Bragg to join the 82nd Airborne and was
deployed to Afghanistan on January 13, 2010, serving with distinction as a member of Alpha
Company, 508th Battalion, 4th Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division; and
WHEREAS, PFC Anderson's personal service awards include the Bronze Star, the Good
Conduct Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the NATO Medal, the Combat Action Badge, and the Purple Heart; and
WHEREAS, PFC Billy Gene Anderson served with great courage and gallantry, giving his life
for his country and for the cause in which he believed, and for that ultimate sacrifice, he deserves
proper recognition; as a member of the United States Army, he proudly continued an essential
tradition of American society: the concept of the citizen-soldier; and
WHEREAS, PFC Anderson's dedication to excellence in the military and his love of his
family, his fellow soldiers, country and county, exemplified in his sacrifice of life itself in defense of all that he held dear, stand as enduring examples of all the characteristics that have ensured the
continued freedom of our nation and the preservation of its ideals over the course of our history; and
WHEREAS, PFC Billy Gene Anderson selflessly gave his life while serving his country, and it
is thus most appropriate that a bridge on U.S. Highway 70 in his home county should be named to
honor his memory; now, therefore,
BE IT ENACTED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF TENNESSEE:
SECTION 1. Notwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary, the bridge spanning Dry
Creek on U.S. Highway 70 in DeKalb County is hereby designated the "PFC Billy Gene Anderson
Memorial Bridge" in recognition of the life of valor and death in combat of Private First Class Billy Gene Anderson, United States Army, one of Tennessee's most heroic citizens.
SECTION 2. The Department of Transportation is directed to erect suitable signs or to affix
suitable markers designating the bridge described in Section 1 as the "PFC Billy Gene Anderson
Memorial Bridge". The cost of such signage shall be funded in accordance with Tennessee Code
SECTION 3. The erection of such signs shall be within the guidelines prescribed by the
Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices.
SECTION 4. This act shall become operative only if the federal highway administrator
advises the Commissioner of Transportation in writing that the provisions of this act shall not render Tennessee in violation of federal laws and regulations and subject to penalties prescribed therein.
SECTION 5. This act shall take effect upon becoming a law, the public welfare requiring it.