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Sen. Blackburn visits Wilson County

As part of an annual sweep across the counties in Tennessee, United States Sen. Marsha Blackburn stopped by the Wilson County Courthouse on Monday morning to see the mayor.

There were multiple reasons for Blackburn’s visit, from discussing matters pertinent to Wilson County to sharing an update on her dealings in Washington, D.C. After speaking with Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto about the county’s strengths and opportunities, Blackburn said that these meetings benefit her tremendously by allowing her to keep a finger on the pulse of her constituents.

“They help us to know how to best help our counties and to keep track of what is going on,” she said.

Blackburn mentioned that staying in touch with the people who elected her is a driving force behind her politics and that she sees benefit in being able to go straight to the source.

“Before COVID, we were over at the museum with some veterans,” Blackburn said. “When you do things like that, you hear directly from people in the community. So, you know where the needs and pressures are.”

However, not every event can be a town hall. So, she sees value in being able to meet with local elected officials whose job it is to be in the know on matters such as these, because those needs and pressures can take many shapes and forms.

“They are going to be different with every county,” Blackburn said. “Some have difficulties with the workforce. Others may have educational needs, but you cannot represent well unless you understand fully what those needs are.”

Blackburn said that she likes to let the local officials lead off the dialogue.

“The good thing is, it’s an ongoing conversation, because we do this every year,” Blackburn said. “You can button up where different issues are, like for instance how broadband expansion is going.”

Other issues Blackburn cited were COVID regulations and employment opportunities for jobseekers.

These interactions have led Blackburn to push for legislation that obstructs the implementation of policies that go against what she calls “individuals’ freedom to live their own version of the American dream.”

Asked how that she turned those conversations into policy proposals, Blackburn offered up an example.

“I had been meeting with a lot of our mayors, and with individuals, and what I was hearing was that we had a lot of first responders, law enforcement, healthcare workers, airline workers, trucking and logistic workers, and grocery-store workers who were worried about increased COVID protocols,” Blackburn said.

On one trip back to DC, Blackburn said that she was approached by a group of airline workers.

“We need your help ... we don’t want to lose our jobs,” they told the senator.

The subsequent policy that she put forth was called the Keeping Our COVID-19 Heroes Employed Act. This act protects those workers deemed “essential” during the pandemic from being fired for refusing to get vaccinated.

“We have had people from all across the country, Democrats and Republicans who have come out and endorsed this bill, because they think it’s important to keep these people on the job,” Blackburn said.

Picking up the peaches

Aimee Dorfman vividly recalls the night of April 29, 2020.

“Hearing the doorbell is never a good sound at that time,” Dorfman said of 2:30 a.m. wake-up. “As a parent, I immediately went to, ‘This is going to be the worst day of my life,’ as I assumed that one of my children had died. Once I realized with relief that it was not one of my kids and just a fire at the orchard, I told my husband Andrew that as long as we had peaches, we would be okay.”

Dorfman, the Breeden’s Orchard co-owner, said that a Wilson County Sheriff Department officer was the one ringing her doorbell to tell her that the orchard was on fire.

The Dorfmans eventually made their way to Mt. Juliet peach and apple orchard within 15 minutes. When they arrived, they realized that the country store had burned to the ground.

No injuries were reported, and the cause of the fire was unknown after 10 weeks of investigation from the Wilson County emergency authorities.

The kitchen survived, and so did the peach trees, which helped the orchard proceed with its season.

Breeden’s Orchard was already dealing with COVID-19 before the fire.

The orchard, which is located on Beckwith Road, was previously owned by Tommy and Marynell Breeden for more than 40 years. The couple sold their property to members of the Dorfman family in 2017.

People would visit the orchard to pick peaches and apples, to munch on homemade fried pies and to look around the once-renovated, now-burned general store that was full of local produce and homemade products, including peach and pumpkin butter and apple cider.

The orchard — which is open from Thursday through Sunday — usually changes its products every week.

The Dorfmans and the rest of the Breeden’s Orchard staff managed to salvage their business by selling their products at a carport and by utilizing a 10-by-20-foot shed. However, a short peach season made it difficult for them to keep the business going.

The orchard also had to deal with the hot weather during the summer and the chilly conditions during the fall in that environment.

“Luckily, I have a great team, and they followed me into battle so to speak,” said Dorfman. “I think we all still have moments of (saying),’Where is that? Oh, that burned in the fire.’ ”

Breeden’s Orchard is making a slow recovery from the fire, even though it still operates at a carport and shed.

However, they were fortunate to retain two things. The orchard recently obtained both a donut machine and a slushy machine.

Dorfman hopes they will have an open-air-covered market by 2022.

However, she said that she came away from 2020 much stronger and with more confidence.

“Although the loss of everything makes me sad, you can’t wallow,” said Dorfman. “And if I had just stood still, I probably would have been broken.”

Veterans Day parade Thursday

Since 1954, Americans have used Nov. 11 to honor veterans for their sacrifice. Wilson County is no exception, and this Thursday, local organizations will pay homage during the annual Veterans Day parade.

The parade officially begins at the Lebanon-Wilson County Library on Lebanon’s West Main Street and wraps up at the plaza in front of the Wilson County Veterans Museum and Plaza.

Upon the parade’s conclusion, a ceremony will begin, featuring guest speaker Steve Wilson, a retired army officer living in Wilson County.

Wilson plans to speak about unity and how that supporting our servicemen and women should be something that people agree on no matter what party a person aligns with.

Veterans Day celebrations are traditionally held every year on the 11th day of the 11th month at 11 a.m. to recognize Armistice Day, which marked the end of World War I. Hence, the ceremony is starting at 11 a.m.

There will be a moment during the ceremony for recognition of gold-star families. A gold star is awarded to a service member’s family if they die while enlisted.

The ceremony will also feature grand marshals from the Korean War, the Vietnam War and Operation Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.

“(We want to) make sure that no matter when they served, any veteran from anywhere that wants to come knows they are welcome,” chairman of the Wilson County Veterans Day Committee Jim Harding said. “We’re just trying to emphasize that. If you’re a veteran, we want you there.”

Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5015 Commander Bill Moss said that parade organizers are preparing for approximately 30 different organizations from around Wilson County to participate. Those groups include high-school marching bands, Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JRTOC) students and the many veterans organizations that call Wilson County home, such as Moss’ VFW, the Vietnam Veterans of America, and American Legion posts.

Moss said that members of the Lebanon Police Department, the Wilson County Sheriff’s Office, Lebanon Fire Department and the Tennessee National Guard will all participate in the event as well.

According to Moss, for a long time, the parade had been a passion of former Lebanon mayor Don Fox, although the local veterans’ organizations always put on the ceremony at the plaza.

“We’re picking up where Don left off,” said Moss. “We’re taking up the mantle and running with it.”

Last year, due to the pandemic, the parade was somewhat different. Moss said that he is excited about the prospects for this year.

“It’s always been a big parade, but that doesn’t stop us from trying to involve more people,” Moss said.

To Moss and his fellow event organizers, the most important thing remains honoring the veterans, but that doesn’t stop them from putting on a show for the spectators.

There will be a flyover during the parade, weather permitting. The aircraft are vintage World War II fighter planes, normally housed in Tullahoma in the composite squadron of the civil air patrol.

Harding pointed out that as long as it’s not too overcast, the flyover should take place. As of Monday, Thursday’s weather was calling for a significant chance of rain, so the flyover remains tentative.

Spectators are encouraged to find their locations by 9 a.m. for the parade’s 10 a.m. start time.

Wilson County simplifies vet ID process

Every year on Veterans Day, Tennesseans hold parades or ceremonies to honor the men and women who served the nation in uniform.

But how are those individuals honored the other 364 days each year?

Through a veterans benefit program that she envisioned and brought to life, Wilson County Register of Deeds Jackie Murphy aims to ensure that the service of veterans isn’t forgotten on days when there is no parade.

“Those who have served our nation in the military deserve the full measure of our gratitude,” said Murphy.

She believes the Thank a Veteran Program is a great way to show that gratitude day in and day out through tangible benefits and offers.

The program started in 2019 and works through a collaboration of local businesses that post discounts and deals for veterans on the register of deeds website. Murphy said that program was off to a great start before the pandemic struck and shuttered business doors, but she added that she is happy to see it picking back up now.

As of Monday, there were 147 local businesses advertising a discounted service or offer of some kind for veterans. The way that veterans access these discounts is by using their DD214 military discharge papers, which is where the register of deeds office comes in.

For years, veterans have recorded their DD214 paperwork with Murphy’s office. That allows for an official copy to be preserved in the register’s archives for future use or in the event that the original is lost.

Once the DD214 is filed, the register of deeds provides them with a current personal photo identification card to show the businesses that offer military discounts and other benefits.

“This program is simple and free of charge,” said Murphy. “You just bring your DD214 discharge papers and a valid photo ID to our office at the Wilson County Courthouse, and a member of our staff will file a permanent record of it.”

That permanent record ensures that a veteran’s paperwork remains secure and protected.

President of Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 1004 Michael Myer said that the benefit can play out in more ways than one but that it can be very helpful if a veteran dies and the family is unable to locate the deceased’s discharge paperwork.

If a veteran has already filed their paperwork at the register of deeds office, all they need to do is visit in person so that the office can take an updated photograph for the ID card. Murphy explained that with some veterans having been discharged decades ago, many veterans may not look like they once did, so it’s important that they have recognizable and identifiable photographs for presenting to local businesses.

“We are working with the many local groups that serve our military veterans so that none of these heroes miss the valuable and well-deserved benefits,” said Murphy.

Murphy also explained how that offering veterans discounts benefits the business that do so.

“Veterans appreciate the discounts and will more likely shop where the discounts are,” Murphy said.

Myer added, “It means a whole lot that people are recognizing the veterans in the county or the area.”

As Myer sees it, those service members are happy to do business with companies that recognize their sacrifice, and that through it all, healthy relationships flourish between veterans organizations and the businesses that call Wilson County home.

Murphy’s office is continuously updating the list of businesses who participate in the program as new businesses are constantly signing up.

Anyone interested is encouraged to visit to sign up or to call the register of deeds office at 615-443-2611.

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