Volunteer Spirit Alive in Knoxville

It is safe to say, there is no shortage of American pride in Knoxville, Tennessee. According to Foursquare’s 2013 survey, Knoxville was ranked the most patriotic city in the country due to the enormous number of residents checking into parks, parades and firework shows. This September, the city is honored to add one more nationalistic notch to its belt: the Medal of Honor Convention.

Not only does Knoxville embody a strong love for its country, but the community has a storied history of military involvement as well. With a long line of servicemen and women born and raised in the area, the community is accustomed to the meaning behind service and sacrifice. In fact, Knoxville is proud to remember two Medal of Honor recipients as hometown heroes: Troy A. McGill and Mitchell William Stout.

McGill made a tremendous impact on the Knoxville area: born in Knoxville, a section of Interstate 40 is dedicated in his honor and he is buried at Knoxville National Cemetery. He entered the service in Oklahoma in 1940 and four years later, during World War II, went above and beyond the call of duty in an enemy encounter during the Admirality Islands campaign at Los Negros Island. At this time, McGill was serving in Troop G, 5th Calvary Regiment, 1st Calvary Division.

Early in the morning on March 8, 1944, Army Sergeant McGill and a squad of eight men came under brutal attack by nearly 200 enemy troops. He was covered by crossfire and received no support from his comrades – all members of the American squad had been killed with the exception of one other man. Maintaining his dangerous position, he continued to fight the enemy. Eventually, his weapon ceased to function, so he sprung from his foxhole and began to club the enemy with his rifle until he was killed. McGill was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his inspiring courage and selfless regard for his own safety he displayed that day.

On February 14, 1950, nearly a decade after McGill’s death, a second Knoxville area hometown hero was born. Mitchell William Stout was a typical child who grew up in Knox County and attended Lenoir City High School. By the time he was a senior, Stout wasn’t sure what he wanted to do in life and decided to drop out of school. While staying with his father in Sanford, N.C. he made the choice to enlist in the U.S. Army. It was a decision his mother did not approve of.

During his first tour in Vietnam, the young soldier was assigned to Army light air defense armored vehicles otherwise known as ‘Dusters’. After proving himself under fire during his first tour, he earned a Bronze Star and the rank of sergeant.

Shortly after returning to the United States from his first tour, he deployed to Vietnam a second time and was assigned to Battery C, 1st Battalion, 44th Artillery Unit. While overseas, the East Tennessee native was posted at a base with 14 American soldiers to defend the Khe Gio Bridge with the support of more than 50 South Vietnamese soldiers. It was here he became an American hero and the first serviceman in the Army’s 1st Battalion to be named a Medal of Honor recipient.

On March 11, 1970, Stout was in a bunker with members of a searchlight crew when he and his comrades came under heavy enemy ground attack and mortar fire. Soon after the mortar fire diminished, an enemy soldier threw a grenade into the bunker. Stout courageously grabbed the grenade with his hands and ran to exit. As he reached for the door, it exploded. He shielded the blast with his body. By doing this, Stout protected his fellow soldiers from further injury and death at the expense of his own life. For this, he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

The heroic stories of McGill and Stout’s actions live on in history through the Medal of Honor. Help Knoxville pay tribute to all Medal of Honor recipients this September at the Medal of Honor Convention. Stay tuned for more details on public events for the community.