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Local Veteran uses his time and money to honor others

12:51 AM, Nov 12, 2011   |    comments
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When Rick Phillips walks among graves at the East Tennessee Veterans Cemetery he knows he is among his brothers and sisters. 

"In one uniform or another, I have accumulated about 42 years of military service, mostly in the Army, National Guard, and Air National Guard," said Phillips. 

Decades of service didn't stop when Phillips retired from the military. "To me, the honor comes with the giving, and that's what I'm doing today with this Veterans Day program," said Phillips.

Twenty-one years ago, Phillips started the Knoxville tradition of placing flags on graves at the East Tennessee Veterans Cemetery for the holiday. "Me and four other gentlemen came out here on Veterans Day in 1990. We had gone out and purchased 60 flags and we came out here and put 60 flags on the 60 graves and we had a quiet ceremony amongst ourselves," explained Phillips.

Today there are 5,600 graves and Phillips coordinates volunteers to make sure no marker gets forgotten. Even his mother and father. 

"That's part of the reason I do it, because I like to pay homage to him," said Phillips. 

Phillips also puts that love into a ceremony held in the cemetery rotunda. He said it costs him $500 to print color programs and hire a sound technician. 

"I got so many compliments after the program was over and that means a lot to me, means more to me than anything that I take out of my pocket," said Phillips. 

The Veterans Administration said it would be nice to have more volunteers like Phillips. Phillips said he is just caring for the Vets who no longer have a voice. 

The East Tennessee Veterans Day ceremony is a selfless act that is now an annual tradition. 

Mr. Phillips needs help collecting flag from grave markers on Monday morning. If you want to help, show up at the Lyons View cemetery at 8:00 a.m.

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