Republicans from all three divisions of the state of Tennessee gathered at The Farms clubhouse in Dyersburg on Friday evening at the Dyer County Republican Party's annual Reagan Day dinner.

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, along with Billy and Karen Vaughn, the parents of fallen Navy Seal Aaron Carson Vaughn were the highlighted speakers of the evening.


An overwhelming 400-plus guests were in attendance at the event that hosted numerous elected officials and a number of people seeking office on the local and state level.


Opening ceremonies for the evening included the welcome by Reagan Day Dinner Chair and emcee of the evening, Jim Horner; an opening prayer voiced by Pastor Jeremy Ballinger of Holy Hills Baptist Church; and the Pledge of Allegiance by U.S. Marine Kyle Reynolds.


The "Star Spangled Banner", including the often left out second verse, was sung by Tennessee State Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver. She stated she chose to include the second verse to emphasize her compassion for the United States and the circumstances that are present concerning changes on the national level and the protection of beliefs shared by those in attendance.


Frankie Lax, radio personality of WTJJ-TJ Network 94.3, entertained guests with personal stories and also thanked those in attendance for the support of Republican Congressman Stephen Fincher who was unable to attend the dinner due to pertinent votes taking place in Washington, D.C.

Lax introduced the primary speaker of the evening, U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, who was also the 45th governor of Tennessee from 1979--1987. Lax led with a brief history of the senator, including a video that highlighted current issues Alexander is facing as an elected official.


"U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (while governor of Tennessee) created one of the country's best four-lane (road) systems, and he did this with no road debt," said Lax. "Under his administration, we were the first state to pay teachers more for teaching well. Lamar Alexander was first elected to the United States Senate in 2002. He has a 100 percent rating with the NFIB (National Federation of Independent Businesses) and a 100 percent rating with the National Right to Life. He has led the fight to get rid of Obamacare and fix the debt."


Alexander and Fincher are filing a bill requesting the federal government to notify taxpayers whenever the Internal Revenue Service has accessed their tax returns or other personal information.


Alexander personally thanked those in attendance and especially the Vaughns. During his presentation, Alexander made several key points with relation to his viewpoints reflecting those of two of Tennessee's famous heroes, Davy Crockett and Sam Houston. He also voiced his concern for the looming government shutdown and the Affordable Care Act, and a solution.


"I'm not in the 'shut down the government' crowd," stated Alexander, "I'm in the 'take over the government' crowd. Take it over, the way the Constitution says, elect some more conservative senators and elect a Republican president and then delay, defeat, and do whatever we can to change Obamacare and replace it with a Republican healthcare plan that uses choice and competition to reduce high healthcare costs for all Americans."

Alexander proceeded to explain his convictions on the matter. "Shutting the government down would delay paychecks to 3.4 million active-duty military men and women, delay processing permits for gun owners, delay Social Security payments and delay air travel for 2 million daily fliers -- but Obamacare would just keep going because the president has the authority to do that under the law," said Alexander.


"The last time the government shut down (in 1996) it cost tax payers $1.4 billion," said Alexander. "Republicans were blamed and President Clinton was re-elected. I didn't vote to shut down the government because it would shift the blame from where it ought to be to where it shouldn't be. It would shift the blame from President Obama and the Democrats who pass a healthcare bill unanimously to the Republicans who would get blamed for shutting the government down.


"We've gotten a bigger, more successful Republican party that is serving our state very well," said Alexander. "Our country may be off in the wrong direction, but our state government is off in the right direction."

State Rep. Bill Sanderson of Tennessee House District 77, accompanied by pianist Peggy Nichols of Mason Hall, Tenn., entertained the audience with a ballad he wrote for Alexander. Sanderson also recalled how he was inspired to be active in politics by Alexander.


Rep. Judd Matheny of Tennessee House District 47, chair of the newly formed Joint Legislative Oversight Committee, spoke on how the state government works with the federal government on the issues of refugees coming into the state of Tennessee and the impact of not only state matters, but federal matters as well.


Ed Jackson, of Jackson, Tenn., also spoke to the audience to let them know he is running for the Tennessee State Senate seat in the 27th district. Democrat Lowe Finney currently holds the seat, but has announced his intentions to not run for re-election. Jackson, a small-business owner who owns three businesses in West Tennessee, expressed his concerns of the high unemployment rates and the alarming numbers of uneducated employees in businesses.


"After more than 40 years of raising a family and doing business in West Tennessee, I have the knowledge, I have the desire, and I have the commitment to be a loud voice in Nashville," said Jackson.


Dr. Brandon Dodds, an optometrist from Newbern, Tenn., also recently announced his intentions to run for the same senate seat as Jackson. He told the audience is not pleased with the current situation in the country.


"I am deeply disappointed in the direction our nation is headed," said Dodds. "We've turned our backs on God and the Constitution and I felt like it was time for a change."


Dodds stated he is a pro-gun advocate and feels strongly in protecting Second Amendment rights. Being a small-business owner, Dodds said he promises to work to change tax laws and mandates that hinder small businesses from flourishing. Seeing positive changes in the laws against illegal immigration on the state level is a concern of Dodds as well. He also spoke strongly against the No Child Left Behind Act and Common Core Standards.


"I believe that every child is equal in the sight of the law and in the sight of God, but there are no two children that are equal in ability," said Dodds. "To ask them to all perform exactly the same on a standardized test is ludicrous."


Billy and Karen Vaughn, the parents of fallen Navy Seal Aaron Vaughn, were the final speakers of the evening. With an emotional home video and verbal re-enactment of their son's final moments and the tumultuous months to follow, the Vaughns painted a vivid picture of what it's like to lose a child fighting for the freedoms of our country.

"Billy and I feel like it's very important to put a face on the figures that we send across the oceans to fight on our behalf," said Karen Vaughn. "I think way too often it's easy for us, as a nation, to forget they are real human beings; that they leave behind real families. Our family understands fully that war is ugly, but it's necessary. We never tried to hold our son back from the calling he had on his life to be a literal warrior. Billy and I also knew and fully understood that each time we kissed our son 'good-bye' and sent him off on America's behalf to a foreign battlefield, there was a good chance he wouldn't come home. What we will never understand or be willing to accept is the fact that while our warriors are still more than willing to lay their lives down in defense of this nation, their leaders have lost their will to win the war."


Karen Vaughn also spoke in length, pleading for those in position of power in the House and Senate to change the way information is passed along to families of soldiers fighting for our country's freedom.


Billy Vaughn spoke of his experience from a father's perspective of a soldier killed in battle.


"Our son, just as most of the rest of the Navy Seals, should you ever come in contact with them, and asked them 'What do you do?', Aaron would simply say, 'I'm in the military'. Only his close family, only his close friends knew that he was a Navy Seal," said Billy Vaughn.


"We, as an American people, must stand up and defend our defenders." Vaughn concluded with several quotes of former President Ronald Reagan.


Dyer County Mayor Richard Hill presented the Vaughns with a certificate of appreciation from the people of Dyer County for their efforts in educating and informing the public on their own personal battles with wars going on around the globe.

"Dyer County as a whole is very sensitive to people like you all and the sacrifice that you gave," said Hill. "I can tell you in words how I feel, but I really don't know until I've walked in your shoes. Many veterans in the audience tonight, we can relate to you as you were giving your story. You've touched our hearts deeply."


The evening concluded with an impassioned rendition of Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the U.S.A." sung by Mark Thompson.


Reagan Day Chairman Jim Horner commemorated the event by presenting every special guest with an ink pen created from the wood of the oak tree recently removed from the Dyer County Courthouse lawn.


"I'd like to leave you with something to think about. You know we're always criticizing our politicians. How about (for) one time you go up to them and you say you appreciate what they do," said Horner. "In return, politician, elected official, why don't you thank the people that support you and have supported you in the past, because you don't know what they've gone through to help you. So, it's a two-edged sword, but please, let's remember to pray for our elected officials, because it's tough out there and they need your prayers. God bless America and thank you all for being here."