Johnny Coleman

Thaxton Mayor Johnny Coleman (in vehicle) and his grandson, Jarrod enjoy the dedication ceremony for the monument in their community.

One of the neatest things about being a county reporter is you get to know everyone in all the corners of Pontotoc County. 

Last Saturday I was given the treat of going to Thaxton to the dedication of the veteran’s monument that the community has put up to honor and memorialize those who have fought for the defense of our country.

Now I am no stranger to Thaxton, my Uncle Lynn lived there and we often visited when I was a teenager’s I was elated to get to go back to a part of the county that holds a special place in my heart.

Off to one side in his van watching all the day’s activities was Thaxton’s mayor Johnny Coleman. “Hi fella,” I heard Jeff Gooch say as he shook Mr. Johnny’s hand.  My heart was warmed I saw all these men and women making their way to him to shake his hand and talk to Mr. Johnny, who is a veteran himself, but was unable to walk. All I heard for the kind man were encouraging words from those who know and love him. His sweet wife Martha Jo and grandson, Jarrod were close by to beam at him and enjoy the day with him as well.

God was gracious and held the rain so that the folks gathered under white clouded blue skies to dedicate the memorial which was a long time in coming. Mr. Gene Stepp pushed the effort for years, showing that some 15 years of persistence can make a difference.

The ball park sits on land that was donated by James Reece Carnes way back in 1974 with the stipulation that the land be dedicated to those who served our country. Mr. Danny Russell gave a fitting tribute to the man who so longed for children to understand that their freedoms today came at a great price.

Mr. Lee Sewell spoke of the first feelings a soldier gets is “home sickness. You never get away from the desire to get back to home,” said the Vietnam War veteran. “This [Thaxton] is a great place to live.”

With the dedication of the monument and the raising of the flags on three poles, the pledge to America and the National Anthem, Gary Leach and his singing group brought tears to folks eyes by singing a song written by Bobby Bare back in 1969 called God Bless America Again. Part of the lyrics said, “God bless America again/You see all the troubles that she’s in/Wash her pretty face, dry her eyes and then/God bless America again.” You would have thought he wrote that song yesterday.

For me, one of the highlights of the day in addition to being in the company of so many who fought for our freedom was the young people who played the Assembly and then the taps. Ella Kate Nichols and Kyle Knix did a superb job on the trumpets.

After the official program I asked all of the veterans to go to the monument for a picture. It was great to see all the cell phones being whipped out to take pictures of this historic event as well.

Afterward I saw my aunt Johnnie’s sister, Hallie Allen helping one of the gentlemen out. She smiled broadly at me, “This is Kenneth,” she said. And I knew she meant her brother Kenneth Warren. I threw my arms around him and asked him if he knew who I was. He allowed as to how he didn’t and I explained that I was his other sister’s niece who was married to my mama’s brother, the late Lynn Sanders. When he caught the family connection his eyes lit up and he smiled broadly.

A bit later I enjoyed some lemonade and cake under the pavilion while those dear fellas helped me identify all the people in the picture I took for the front page. There was no better way to spend some of my Saturday, and I thank all those folks for their hospitality.

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