Tennessee sent more than 750 soldiers and airmen, joining the 25,000 member task force.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — While freshmen at the University of Tennessee were moving into their dorms this past weekend, one incoming student wasn’t able to make it.
Instead, 19-year-old Nicholas “Hunter” Gilchrest has been in Washington D.C. gearing up to serve his country with the National Guard on Inauguration Day. He is one of 750 soldiers and airmen Tennessee sent to join the 25,000 member task force.
Jaclyn Parks, Hunter’s mom, had a vision of what moving her oldest child into college would look like.
“This was his big freshman move in,” she said. “He was supposed to be on campus this week.”
But duty called. She said that he received an email early last week, saying that he had been activated and that he needed to report to his unit. Then, she said everything about his college move-in changed.
Parks called the university’s housing department and explained the situation. This past weekend, she and her husband moved Hunter in. Even though he missed that experience, she said the one he’s getting instead is extraordinary.
“Whatever side of politics you may be on, it’s still a historic event and to be able to participate in something like this is bar none,” she said.
Serving the country runs in the family and this experience is allowing him to follow in his dad’s footsteps, according to Parks.
“My husband is a 24 year National Guard soldier. He is a two-time war veteran,” she said. “His dad did a very similar exercise back in June when he went during the Black Lives Matter marches.”
Parks never imagined the year would start like this, but she’s incredibly proud.
UT also gifted Hunter a swag bag full of gear for him to wear when he returns to Rocky Top and starts his classes.