Press Releases

Southern Steak & Oyster to Host Meet and Greet with Navajo Code Talkers Nov. 11

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development; November 8, 2013:

NASHVILLE, Tenn.– A free meet and greet with the Navajo Code Talkers, one of the most storied units in United States military history will be held 2-4 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 11 in The Southern Steak & Oyster’s private Demonbreun Room.

As one of America’s oldest living groups of WWII heroes, the Navajo Code Talkers are famous for their “secret code,” a language developed in early 1942 and the only military code never broken by an enemy. By 1945, there were more than 400 trained Navajo Code Talkers, and their unbreakable code played a vital role in saving thousands of lives.

“My father served alongside Zurl Keames, a Navajo Code Talker in Patton’s Army behind the German lines on his infamous march to Paris,” said Tom Morales, owner of The Southern Steak & Oyster. “Growing up, my father shared stories that Zurl validated during a lengthy stay in my home here in Nashville in the early ’90s. I have so much respect for these brave men; I jumped at the opportunity to host these surviving heroes.”

In addition, from Friday, Nov. 8 through Monday, Nov. 11, select restaurant managers and staff will strap on their combat boots purchased from The Boot Campaign to show appreciation for U.S. troops (

Staff and managers at The Southern will also Nov. 8 – Nov. 11 put on a pair of combat boots to support The Boot Campaign. The Boot Campaign, a grassroots initiative designed to show appreciation for U.S. troops, cultivates awareness of the challenges soldiers face upon returning from active duty. The program also raises funds to help wounded military and their families with living expenses, fund job placement programs, provide mental health support and counseling, and more.

For more information, visit

Press Releases

Haslam Recognizes TN Veterans, Veterans Employed by State

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Veterans Affairs; November 6, 2013:

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.

Press Releases

Lessons Learned: From Combat to Classroom

Press release from Teach for America; November 12, 2012: 

Sarah Staab

Standing in the hallway surrounded by a hundred eleven-year-olds, Iraq feels almost impossibly far away. After five years in the U.S. Army, I joined Teach For America and began a new career as a fifth grade science teacher at Brick Church College Prep in Nashville. Each time I bend down to help tie a shoe, or put a band-aid on a tiny finger, I almost laugh at the unusual juxtaposition of these two careers. While the differences are glaring, most often I’m struck by the similarities that they share. Day-to-day, the lessons I learned while serving my country overseas now follow me as I serve my country in the classroom.

Many of these lessons come from a child I met during my first deployment – nine months with a small medical unit manning an emergency clinic and trauma center for troops in Al Kut, Iraq. Baby Noor came to us at only 6 months old. She was born with an incredible number of birth defects and a life expectancy of less than a year. After visiting practically every medical facility in Iraq, Noor’s family came to us on the edge of hopelessness. In the following weeks, as our team performed multiple surgeries and worked tirelessly to correct these potentially fatal defects, I came to understand that every family – no matter how dire its circumstances, no matter its hometown – holds great expectations for its children. Under conditions of war, poverty, and illness, Noor’s family believed that her life should be nothing short of excellent and set out to make it so. In the end, Noor needed more intensive care than our facility could provide and we helped to get her flown to the U.S with her family. Fifteen surgeries later, she would recover beautifully and develop into the happy, healthy little girl her family always knew she could be.

Noor’s story taught me about the power of grit and value of high expectations – lessons I employ in my classroom every single day. In our world, and in our schools, it is dangerously easy to settle – to accept that for certain people, in certain communities, some things will simply never be. But when I think of Noor, her family’s strength and convictions, and the enormous talents of the students in my classroom, I know that to settle would be our greatest mistake. Children facing the challenges of poverty need our passion and commitment, just as Noor did. Every child deserves our relentless dedication.

As an officer, I was fortunate enough to be in a position to help Noor’s parents realize their audacious dreams for their daughter. Now, I hope to do the same for the dozens of parents who trust me with their children each morning. Every day, as I teach, I think about these parents, about Noor, and about the Soldiers with whom I served – men and women who risk their lives as they imagine a brighter, more peaceful world for all of us. On this Veteran’s Day, I am reminded what it means to ask more of ourselves and to truly serve our country – be it in combat or in a classroom.

Sarah Staab is a Teach For America corps member and fifth grade science teacher at Brick Church College Prep in Nashville.

Press Releases

TN State Parks Offers Free Night of Camping, Complimentary 18 Holes of Golf for TN Veterans

Press release from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation; November 5, 2012: 

NASHVILLE – Tennessee State Parks announced today its annual free state parks day for all Tennessee veterans on Monday, Nov. 12, offering one free night of camping and complimentary greens fees for 18 holes of golf with appropriate identification.

Passed by the General Assembly in 2010, the policy calls for a yearly, special state parks day to honor Tennessee’s resident veterans.

“This is our way of honoring the many brave men and women who have served our country,” said Environment and Conservation Commissioner Bob Martineau. “The state parks family extends a warm invitation to all of Tennessee’s veterans to visit us on Nov. 12 and enjoy a day in one of our beautiful parks.”

The free day on Nov. 12 is in addition to Tennessee State Parks’ current veterans’ policy, which includes a camping discount within the state parks system and is available annually beginning November 1 through March 31, offering a 15 to 25 percent reduction off the standard nightly base rates (depending on the type of site chosen). This camping discount is available to Tennessee residents showing proof of prior military duty.

A special state park discount also is in place for active duty military personnel and members of the Tennessee National Guard. This year-round discount is given to all U.S. military – regardless of their branch of service or where they are stationed. Disabled veterans also are eligible for the Tennessee State Parks year-round ADA discount that provides a 25 to 50 percent discount for campsites. For more information about Tennessee State Parks’ veterans and military discounts, please visit

To receive the free state parks day benefits and extended discounts, veterans need to provide proof of residency with a Tennessee driver’s license; and proof of veteran’s status, with a Certificate of Discharge (DD214) or Veterans Administration benefit card.

Tennessee’s 54 state parks and 82 natural areas span the state from the Appalachian Mountains to the Mississippi River and offer an array of diverse natural, recreational and cultural experiences, including hiking, camping, boating and golfing. Celebrating its 75th Anniversary this year, the Tennessee State Parks system was established through legislation in 1937. Today, there is a state park within an hour’s drive of just about anywhere in the state, with features such as pristine natural areas and a variety of lodging and dining choices. For more information, visit Tennessee State Parks’ website at