The "Tennessee Distinguished Service Medal" was created in May 1979 by House Joint Resolution 239 of the 91st General Assembly. The medal was presented in a special ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery and placed on display in the Memorial Amphitheater. The display case is framed with wood from the tulip popular, Tennessee's state tree.
The following citation appears on the display: "This medal is hereby posthumously dedicated to the memory of all veterans of Tennessee who have given their lives in the defense of our nation and the Volunteer State."
House Joint Resolution No. 239 created the "Tennessee Distinguished Service Medal." Tennessee felt that it was needed a way to honor fallen heroes that would be recognized at the national level. Arlington National Cemetery has a display of awards given from states to their native sons, and Tennessee felt that soldiers like Terry L. Smith, born on May 13, 1947 in Nashville, Tennessee, needed to be recognized in such a way. The resolution was passed on May 14, 1979. Ironically, the speaker of the House of Representatives of Tennessee at the time was Ned McWherter who was mentioned above as governor. The "Tennessee Distinguished Service Medal" that McWherter helped pass, was given, for the first time, to Terry.