‘What a Soldier Should Be’ Sgt. York Honored 100 years on in Nashville

Retired Army Col. Gerald York, grandson of World War I hero Alvin C. York, addresses attendees while speaking at the Sgt. Alvin C. York Centennial Celebration and Recognition in downtown Nashville, Tenn., hosted by American Legion Nashville Post 5. Photo by William DeShazer

Editor’s Note: The following story is used by permission, and was written by Matt Grills, Managing Editor of The American Legion Magazine. We extend our thanks to The American Legion Magazine, Mr. Grills, and to the entire American Legion for their service to this country both past and present. We also wish to extend our gratitude to the York Family for their unwavering efforts to preserve the legacy of Sgt. York, for their steadfast support of Fentress County, and their constant pursuit of its betterment in all aspects, which honors that legacy.

This event will be shown in its entirety by WDEB Productions Thursday, Nov. 1st at 6:00 p.m. and again on Sunday, Nov. 11th at 2:00  on Twin Lakes cable channel 953 and Comcast cable channel 12.

By Matt Grills

In a ceremony at the Tennessee State Capitol on Oct. 27, retired Army Col. Gerald York said his legendary grandfather, Sgt. Alvin York, understood that freedom has a steep and ongoing cost.

While a second world war raged overseas, York – a Christian pacifist turned combat hero – traveled the country in support of U.S. involvement. In 1918, “we thought we’d won, that we’d achieved liberty, democracy and peace for everyone forever,” Gerald, a Vietnam War veteran, told guests. “We don’t have them forever. We have a lease on them, and another payment was due.”

Hosted by American Legion Nashville Post 5, the Sgt. Alvin C. York Centennial Celebration and Recognition honored the life and legacy of Tennessee’s most decorated doughboy. More than 200 people attended the event, including 30 of York’s descendants.They gathered beneath a statue of York dedicated by the state in 1968, 50 years after he and his squad of seven soldiers famously captured 132 Germans behind enemy lines.

A century on, York is remembered not just for his courage on the battlefield, but his character. Offered $250,000 to lend his name to various products upon his return from Europe, York said, “This uniform ain’t for sale,” and instead raised money to build a school for the kids of Fentress County. “He ran it himself for 10 years and handed out diplomas at every graduation until his stroke in 1954,” Gerald said. “He wanted his legacy to be bringing education to mountain children.”

The centennial tribute featured music by the 129th Army Band, the Sagacity quartet, and an ensemble from the Alvin C. York Institute in Jamestown. Soldiers from the Southeast Medical Area Readiness Support Group (SEMARSG) in Nashville presented the colors.

Read the rest of the story in this weeks Fentress Courier.