Tuberville Honors Fallen Alabamians in Annual Memorial Day Remarks

Senator Tuberville recognized Mess Attendant Johnnie Laurie of Bessemer and Lance Corporal Thomas Rivers of Hoover

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) recognized two of Alabama’s fallen soldiers and their families for Memorial Day. On the U.S. Senate floor, Senator Tuberville shared the stories of Mess Attendant First Class Johnnie Laurie of Bessemer and Lance Corporal Thomas Rivers Jr. of Hoover.

Excerpts from the Senator’s remarks can be found below, and his full remarks can be viewed on YouTube or Rumble.


“Our freedom depends on men and women who are willing to defend it—no matter what the cost.  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. I think we can all agree our fallen heroes deserve to be remembered for more than one day a year. That’s why I introduced a resolution to designate May as ‘Fallen Heroes Memorial Month.’ I appreciate my friend Congressman Dan Bishop of North Carolina for introducing this resolution in the House. I hope our colleagues will join us in passing this resolution because there is no cause more deserving for our time and effort. Setting aside a month to recognize our fallen service members and their families, instead of one day, is the least we all can do. But today, I would like to recognize some of Alabama’s fallen soldiers who have paid freedom’s high cost and the families who still grieve their absence.”


“It’s estimated that more than 81,000 American soldiers who gave their lives for our country remain unidentified since World War I. 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.

Out of the 429 crewmen aboard the ship, the Central Identification Laboratory was only able to identify 35 of the 429. This mystery seemed like it would never be solved. But in July 2019, Jonnie Laurie’s remains were identified, and he was finally able to return to his home state of Alabama to receive a proper hero’s welcome. He is now buried at the Alabama National Cemetery in Montevallo, Alabama.

His brother Elmer, now 94 years old, continues to participate in memorial ceremonies to ensure the sacrifices of fallen heroes like his brother are never, ever forgotten.”


“For many of our heroes, the desire to serve began at an early age. That is the case of Lance Corporal Thomas Rivers Jr. of Hoover, Alabama. His parents said Thomas knew as a child that he wanted to be a Marine—his lifelong dream. This desire only grew throughout his life – and he was motivated in everything he did by this thought of becoming a Marine. He struggled at first in high school until a military recruiter told him he’d need a high school diploma to enlist. Low grades were never a problem after that conversation. This was evidenced in an English essay he wrote, titled, ‘Why I Want to Go into the Marines.’

Thomas joined the Marines as soon as he graduated from Briarwood Christian School in 2007. 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.

Despite the devastating loss, Charon and her husband, Tom, find comfort in their faith and the belief that lives were changed through their son’s story. After Thomas’ passing, Charon began a nonprofit that sent care packages to soldiers on the frontlines of battle 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. 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.”

Senator Tommy Tuberville represents Alabama in the United States Senate and is a member of the Senate Armed Services, Agriculture, Veterans’ Affairs, and HELP Committees.