Gene McPherson, Ted Harris and D. J. Fontana pose with other Elvis Presley Whitehaven VFW post 4935 veterans outside the building. During last year's Elvis Tribute Week, Ted Harris, a singer/songwriter from Georgia and a lifelong Elvis fan (he remembers watching the '68 comeback special on television even though he was only 3 years old), thought he would like to do something different to honor Memphis's most famous resident.
A Marine Corps and Navy veteran with 22 years of service, Harris is proud that Elvis Presley served in the armed forces and is impressed with the way he conducted himself during the two years he spent in the Army, refusing all special treatment offered to him. "He just wanted to be one of the guys, a regular soldier and I don't think that at the time his service was as appreciated as it should have been, nor has it really been acknowledged since," said Harris.
"When Elvis passed away, I understand there was a military honor guard standing by his coffin at the visitation but he should have had a full veteran's funeral service, he earned it." As Whitehaven VFW Post 4935 junior vice commander, Harris received no opposition when he decided to pitch the idea to the almost 300 members to rename the post the Elvis Presley Whitehaven Memorial 4935.
The result was a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 1 p.m. on Aug. 7 attended by Elvis's first drummer, the legendary D.J. Fontana. Harris's own newly formed band, The EP Express, gave a show at 3 to continue the daylong dedication. The 10-member band of seasoned and talented musicians includes Harris's wife, Cathy, who is a veteran of 21 years.
Harris hopes to bring in new and younger veterans as members, and the public is also welcome. "Elvis Presley was a great patriot who gave unselfishly to his country and the world," said Harris. "This is giving him a little bit back, we are proud to do this for him." Planned as a further tribute, Harris wants the members of Post 4935 to present Lisa Marie Presley and Graceland with an American flag on March 24, the anniversary of Elvis's induction into the Army. "I think Elvis would be pleased," Harris said.