Press Releases

Haslam Honors 3 TN Veterans Killed in Action

Press release from the Office of Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam; May 23, 2013:

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and First Lady Crissy Haslam joined Tennessee Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Many-Bears Grinder and Major General Terry “Max” Haston of the Tennessee Military Department to pay tribute to three Tennesseans killed in action, including a soldier previously missing in action for 62 years.

Sergeant Jacob M. Schwallie of Clarksville, was fatally injured by a roadside bomb on May 7, 2012 in the Ghazi Province, Afghanistan. Schwallie graduated from Rossview High School in 2007 and enlisted in the United States Army in 2008.

Private First Class Glenn Shely Schoenmann reportedly died as a Prisoner of War (POW) on December 29, 1950. The Grundy County native was involved in the Battle of Chosin Reservoir in North Korea on November 28, 1950 when he went missing. The United States Army Soldier was 20-years old when he was killed. Navy veteran Raymond Schoenmann accepted the state’s memorial presentation on behalf of his older brother.

Staff Sergeant Christopher Michael Ward of Oak Ridge was fatally wounded when his patrol was struck by a car bomb on April 6, 2013 in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Ward was serving with Troop “A”, 5th Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Armor Brigade Combat Team out of Fort Stewart, Georgia when he was killed. Joyce Ward accepted the state’s memorial presentation on behalf of her son.

For the first time in the state’s history, Governor Haslam declared May 24, 2013 as Gold Star Family Day. Previously, the state has observed Gold Star Mothers’ Day and Gold Star Wives’ Day, but fathers, siblings and grandparents have also suffered the loss of a service member killed while serving in the United States Armed Forces.

Gold Star Dad and Gold Star Mom Wayne and Brenda Gearheart accepted the first proclamation presentation from Haslam during the Governor’s Memorial Day Ceremony. Their son, United States Marine Lance Corporal Benjamin Gearheart was killed in a training accident at Camp Pendleton, California on August 27, 1997. Gearheart served three years in the Marine Corps to include a deployment to Kuwait. He was 22-years old.

“This occasion is set aside to remember the young men and women who have given the ultimate sacrifice,” Haslam said. “The State of Tennessee also pauses to remember the surviving family members on this Memorial Day weekend as they continue to cope with the loss of their loved one.”

“It is a privilege and honor to recognize these brave heroes who will live on in our memories,” Grinder said. “Gold Star family members are all around us and they need our support because their sacrifices are also a valuable thread in the fabric that ties our state and country together.”

“Memorial Day is a day to remember all those who died serving in the Armed Forces,” Maj. Gen. Haston said. “We honor these men and women today, but we remember their sacrifice every day.”

This year is also the first time the state has presented the “Honor and Remember Flag” to surviving family members. The flag is a combination of memorial symbolism to include a large red section which represents blood spilled by service members in America’s military throughout history. The blue star represents active service in military conflicts from the American Revolution to present day. The white border around the gold star recognizes the purity of sacrifice. The gold star reflects the value of life that was given. The folded flag signifies the final tribute to an individual life that a family sacrificed and gave to the nation. The flame is an eternal reminder of the spirit that has departed this life yet burns on in the memory of all who knew and loved the fallen hero.

Press Releases

Republicans Praise Requirement for Civics Instruction in Schools

Press release from the Tennessee Senate Republican Caucus; May 23, 2012:

(NASHVILLE, TN), May ­­­­23, 2012 — Legislation implementing a new emphasis on civics education in Tennessee was among bills signed into law by Governor Bill Haslam this week as the state prepares to observe the Memorial Day weekend. Senate Bill 2066, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville), aims to give students the skills they need to be better informed about the workings of their own government by requiring civics education be included in the public school curriculum assessed by Local Educational Agencies (LEAs).

The legislation drew praise from former Chief Justice Sandra Day O’ Connor who wrote Leader Norris last week saying, “This important legislation will help make sure that every Tennessee student receives the civil learning that is so vital to their becoming an informed and engaged citizen.” Norris completed the bill after meeting with O’Connor whose efforts to promote civics education are taking root at middle schools and high schools across the nation. The most recent study of the National Assessment of Educational Progress reported that students perform worse in civics and U.S. history than in any other subjects. To counteract this trend, O’Conner has become a staunch advocate of civics education.

“I share Justice O’Connor’s deep concern regarding the need for a strong foundation in civics education so students will be fully engaged both as citizens and future leaders,” said Leader Norris. “The Memorial Day holiday is a stark reminder of those who fought and died for our freedom and right to self-govern. It is important that students know the underpinnings of our U.S. and Tennessee Constitutions and our democratic framework. It is even more important that they understand how they work together to make life better for those who live under the flag of freedom in this great nation.”

According to Norris, the legislation passed this year is timely as a result of the state’s recent waiver of the No Child Left Behind law. He is concerned that if Tennessee does not test civic knowledge and skills, they could become afterthoughts in education, especially in schools where students are at risk of failing the subjects that are tested. Norris said the project-based assessment put into place under the new law, moves away from testing memorization of facts and puts the focus on the academic skills needed for engaging in social issues and governance.

According to the most recent reports, there are deficiencies in Tennessee’s curriculum, particularly as it effects active, project-based instruction which is the most effective method of learning civics education. Norris’ legislation calls for engaging students in choosing issues of concern to them, followed by investigative research and development of plans for improving their communities.

“Tennessee students will choose issues of concern to them in their own communities, investigate them using rigorous research and develop plans for improving their communities through this approach,” Norris added.

Leader Norris has been engaged in the promotion of stronger civic education in Tennessee public schools since 2006 when the General Assembly established the Commission on Civic Education. He was recently chosen to participate in the National Center for Learning and Citizenship (NCLC) Conference in Chicago in June. The meeting is part of the National Summit on the Role of State Policy in Promoting Civic Knowledge and Civic Engagement in K-12 Schools. He has also been recognized for his efforts by the national Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools.

Janis Adams Kyser, Director of the Tennessee Center for Civic Learning and Engagement said, “Our children of Tennessee should learn the general framework of their government; know where they come in contact with the government, where government impacts their lives and where their voice is heard within the government. Senator Mark Norris and the Tennessee Legislature have provided an opportunity for our youth to understand the responsibilities of being an active citizen and the important roles they can play in maintaining our democracy.”

“I agree with President Reagan who warned us in his farewell speech that eradication of this knowledge would lead to the erosion of this country,” he continued. “The last sentence of his farewell speech was – for democracy to work, an educated and engaged citizenry is essential. I admire the work of Justice O’Connor in shining a light on civics and am proud to be a part of this effort in Tennessee.”

Press Releases

TDOT Suspending Highway Construction for Memorial Day Weekend

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Transportation; May 23, 2012: 

NASHVILLE – Road construction won’t slow motorists down as they travel Tennessee’s highways this Memorial Day weekend. The Tennessee Department of Transportation will suspend all construction-related lane closures on interstates and state routes beginning at 12:00 noon on Friday, May 25 through 6:00 a.m. on Tuesday, May 29. This will provide maximum roadway capacity for motorists expected to travel in the state this Memorial Day weekend.

“Halting road construction during this busy holiday weekend will minimize congestion and delays on Tennessee’s interstates, said Commissioner John Schroer. “We want to keep traffic flowing so everyone can have a safe and enjoyable Memorial Day weekend.”

Motorists will still encounter some lane closures on long term construction projects. Drivers should be aware that reduced speed limits will be in effect in work zones. Slower speeds are necessary in work zones due to the temporary layout of the roadway. Drivers convicted of speeding through work zones where workers are present face a fine of up to $500, plus court fees and possible increased insurance premiums.

“Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial kickoff to summer and we want everyone to arrive at their destination safely,” said Governor’s Highway Safety Office Director Kendell Poole. “If you’re traveling this Memorial Day weekend, be sure to buckle up and avoid distractions inside your vehicle.”

AAA estimates 34.8 million people will travel more than 50 miles this Memorial Day holiday, reflecting a slight nationwide increase of 1.2% from 2011. Of this number, AAA predicts nine out of ten travelers will travel by car. In Tennessee, AAA projects 613,327 will travel by automobile and 58,168 by air, which is a 1.5% increase over Tennessee’s 2011 travel numbers.

Updated travel and construction information can be found on the TDOT SmartWay website at or you may call 5?1?1. You can also receive traffic alerts via TDOT’s multiple Twitter feeds, including statewide traffic tweets @TN511 or any of TDOT’s other Twitter pages. Smartphone users can use the TDOT SmartWay Mobile website at to access TDOT’s SmartWay cameras, messages displayed on overhead Dynamic Message Signs, and information on construction related lane closures and incidents on interstates and state routes.

As always, drivers are reminded to use all motorist information tools wisely and Know Before You Go! by checking travel conditions before leaving for their destination. Drivers should never tweet, text or talk on a cell phone while behind the wheel.