U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Auburn) recently paid homage to two fallen Alabama servicemen in a Memorial Day Tribute from the floor of the U.S. Senate.

Before Americans across the nation began preparing for the long, three-day weekend, Tuberville took the Senate floor on Thursday to recognize two Alabama military men killed in action.

Tuberville took ample time telling the stories of Mess Attendant First Class Johnnie Laurie of Bessemer and Lance Corporal Thomas Rivers Jr. of Hoover.

"Our freedom depends on men and women who are willing to defend it—no matter what the cost," Tuberville said. "This coming weekend, we will observe Memorial Day. Started as a Decoration Day [in] the 1860s, Congress made Memorial Day a national holiday in 1968. Many people will take this day as an opportunity to cook out, go to the lake, go to the pool, be around friends. But that's not the purpose of this day. It's a time to reflect on the sacrifices that have been made for all of our freedom: those who made the ultimate sacrifice and the honorable families they leave behind."

Tuberville first acknowledged Laurie, who was killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Laurie's remains were not identified until 2019. After nearly 80 years, Laurie finally returned to Alabama, where he rests at the Alabama National Cemetery in Montevallo.

"It's estimated that more than 81,000 American soldiers who gave their lives for our country remain unidentified since World War I," Tuberville said. "For nearly 80 years, this was the case for Alabama's own Mess Attendant First Class Johnnie Laurie of Bessemer, Alabama. Johnnie was very active at Red Mountain Baptist Church, teaching both Sunday School and Baptist Young People's Union classes. He graduated from Dunbar High School, where he competed in basketball and high jumping in track. In 1940, Johnnie joined the U.S. Navy and was later assigned to serve aboard the USS Oklahoma. He was aboard the ship on the fateful day of December 7, 1941, when our country was attacked by Japanese aircraft."

Tuberville then honored Rivers, opining on the Marine's lifetime faith that sustained him through several deployments before being killed by an IED at the age of 22.

"Thomas joined the Marines as soon as he graduated from Briarwood Christian School in 2007," Tuberville said. "After completing training at Camp Lejeune, he deployed to Iraq and then to Afghanistan. His faith never wavered, despite the intense conditions of combat."

"He and one of his friends one night began a Bible study while deployed, leaning on passages of the Bible for comfort. Corporal Rivers was killed by an IED explosion at the age of 22. His mother, Charon, spoke about how she never really got to know the fine young man she raised as he grew to be an adult. Between deployments, he was unable to spend much time at home," he continued.

Alabama's senior U.S. Senator also described the non-profit Rivers' mother started, which sends care packages to soldiers on the frontline "because she remembered how much Thomas loved receiving things from home."

"Through her efforts, she was able to send more than 5,000 care packages to soldiers overseas over an eight-year-span," Tuberville concluded. "Charon's reminder to us is that for families like hers, Memorial Day isn't a happy holiday or just another day at the pool or cooking out. It's a day to remember heroes like her son, Thomas, who answered the call to serve and courageously laid down his life for ours."

To connect with the author of this story or to comment, email craig.monger@1819news.com.

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