Bridge dedicated to fallen soldier

Wednesday, July 12, 2017
Jessica Mae Tomlin touches the just-unveiled sign naming a bridge on U.S. 41A after her late husband, who was killed in a helicopter crash during an Army training mission in April in Leonardtown, Maryland.
Photo by John I. Carney

“We live in the greatest country,” said Tennessee Commissioner of Veterans Affairs Many-Bears Grinder, “and the reason this is so is because of the grace of the good Lord and men and women like Jeremy.”

Spc. Jeremy Tomlin of Chapel Hill, killed in April when his UH-30 Black Hawk helicopter crashed during a training mission in Maryland, was honored on Monday with the dedication of signs naming a bridge after Tomlin. The Spc. Jeremy Darrell Tomlin Memorial Bridge is located on U.S. 41A, just a stone’s throw from Community Middle School and Community Elementary School in Unionville, and not far from where Tomlin was laid to rest in Rockvale.

“Jeremy Tomlin was a humble, quiet, good and peaceful student,” said Keith Williams, assistant principal of Community High School. He said it was only appropriate that Tomlin be honored with something utilitarian, a bridge “which daily and humbly serves our community.”

Grinder, who lost her daughter-in-law in a helicopter crash in Iraq, often drives over a bridge on Interstate 840 named for Billie Jean Grinder, and says she always makes a point of blowing a kiss, honking a horn or giving some other recognition.

“When we come by this bridge,” said State Rep. Pat Marsh of Shelbyville, “we’re going to come by, and look up, and see Jeremy’s name.”

State Rep. Rick Tillis said that service members like Tomlin are “standing on the walls of the world, protecting our freedom.”

The Rev. Tom Henry of Calvary Baptist Church in Shelbyville called Tomlin “an authentic American hero” in his prayer of invocation.

“Jeremy was training to protect us,” said State Sen. Jim Tracy. Tracy noted the process required for naming a bridge on a state highway. Bedford County Board of Commissioners had to request the dedication, which then had to be approved by the Tennessee General Assembly before Tennessee Department of Transportation would put up the signs. Tracy said as far as he was aware, there was not a single vote in opposition.

The 22-year-old Middle Tennessee native was crew chief on the training mission at the time of the crash. Tomlin served nearly five years in the U.S. Army. He received the Army Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Army Service Ribbon, the Overseas Service Ribbon and the Basic Army Aviator Badge.

He was survived by his wife, Jessica Mae Tomlin; his mother, Jenny Lynn Tomlin; sisters Kaitlynn and Kayla Tomlin and grandparents Ronnie and Teresa Tomlin. Numerous family members, as well as a number of veterans, were in attendance for Monday’s ceremony.