Keeping alive the story of one of Knoxville's war dead

·2 min read

Welcome to "Your Week in Knoxville," a weekly note for subscribers only from Knox News editor Joel Christopher. Five of our top stories from the week are always highlighted at the bottom of this newsletter.

It's a challenge to bring a fresh angle to annual events, but reporter Silas Sloan brings you for Memorial Day a compelling look at the life, death and legacy of David Whitman, a 19-year-old Knoxvillian who lost his life 53 years ago in Vietnam.

As we talked about how to cover Memorial Day, we kept coming back to how hard it is to know the people behind the names you see on lists of war dead. Silas decided to go to the East Tennessee Veterans Memorial in World's Fair Park to randomly choose a name and see what he could uncover.

Silas found David Whitman, and the story of a life that lives on more than a half-century later through the sharp memories and deep emotional attachments of his family and friends, including a niece, DaVett Jones, whose first name includes a portion of David's to honor him. She never met her uncle – he died six years before she was born – but she told Silas she always felt like she was meant to tell his story.

"It definitely means the world to me that you even wanted to (write about) him and somehow it ended up coming back to me, because I think that was my mom's intention." Jones told Silas. "If there was ever anytime or anyway to be able to tell David's story, that there would be a DaVett to tell it."

It's impossible to read about David and not want to meet him. It's painful to think about the life cut short and what he would have become. That's the tragedy of war, and the reason we pause on Memorial Day to remember and honor those who gave their lives for us.

Thank you again for you support, and as always, please feel free to reach me directly with questions or comments by email at or by phone at 865-342-6300.

All my best,

Joel Christopher, editor

This article originally appeared on Knoxville News Sentinel: Keeping alive the story of one of Knoxville's war dead