The challenge of christmas pictures
nyone who has tried to get the family together for a photo shoot knows that it’s nearly impossible. Between the long distances, work and school schedules, sickness and sheer lack of participation, it’s enough to drive the designated family historian to lunacy… or eggnog. Who decides on the role of family historian anyway?
I take pictures of other people in my spare time and I completely downplay all of the crazy things that tend to happen during these family sessions. Someone has on the wrong shoes. We will hide their feet. One of the kids insists on holding their favorite Tonka truck. I convince the mom that she will laugh about it in the future. If given the choice between having a Tonka truck and a happy kid or no Tonka truck with a screaming kid, I think the choice is simple. While it’s easy to convince someone else, as a mom, I tend to lose it when the photo sessions aren’t just right. Considering the fact that my kids are 15 and 22, you’d think that it would have gotten easier through the years. I WISH!
Since October, we have had two sessions of family portraits. One was with my husband’s parents and siblings, the nieces and the great-nieces and nephew— all 18 of us. That was actually fun. It was definitely memorable. Multiple generations were trying to correct each other. A toddler who insisted on eating an apple throughout the shoot. A preschooler who was over pictures before it started—it was her birthday. She didn’t have time for this. Then there was my 15 year old who had tried new make-up techniques the morning of the pictures. Heaven help!
Whenever this family gets together, an outsider would think that we all dislike one another because yelling is how we communicate. Seriously. In order for my father-in-law to understand the conversation, you must speak loudly. So we yell. It works for us and it keeps him in the know. However, if anyone was walking by us as we were trying to take those pictures, I apologize. We really do love one another. That’s why we were trying so very hard to get pictures. Of course, we were color-coordinated in white tops and jeans. Of course, my husband ends up with some sort of stain on his shirt. Complete face palm.
I am thoroughly convinced that regardless of age, individuals have to be bribed to cooperate for family pictures. The reward for successful family pictures and generational pictures and pictures of everyone with the grandparents was a trip to our favorite Choctaw County restaurant, Bimbo’s, following successful completion of about 300 shots. There was birthday cake involved and we reminded the littles of this. More often though, one of us would say, “The quicker y’all cooperate, the quicker we will eat.” It worked, I suppose. No one completely lost their cool. Everyone was on their best behavior. It was a record day for us!
The second set of pictures was just my little family. Honestly, the four of us were worse than the whole 18 of the previous setting. We did them at our home, so our neurotic dogs are in some of them. My daughter was determined to go live on Instagram so that all of her friends could see the dysfunction that manifests when it’s picture time.
My poor son had worked a double shift, slept a few hours and driven home for the occasion. He was exhausted.
My husband had worked his share of shifts also and did not want to cooperate. The reward in this instance was if they cooperated no one would have to go Black Friday shopping with me.
We managed to get a few shots, but it’s the outtakes that I’m enjoying most. You know, the ones that will never make the Christmas card? The ones where someone is laughing so hard that their eyes are closed, where the dogs are looking at the camera and the people are not, where we are all engaged in a conversation, oblivious to the photographer. I won’t put them on the Christmas card, but I’ll treasure them and not delete them. These are the genuine moments in the story of our family. With every perfectly posed Christmas card portrait I receive, I wonder about the outtakes.
So here’s to all the moms who are going for that perfect picture this holiday season–just enjoy the moments. They pass way too quickly…and have a good bribe.
Career change reflections
Six months ago, I had the opportunity to make a career change, so I did. It wasn’t an easy decision because I loved the kids I was teaching; but it was the right decision because it gave me a chance to explore writing, something I have always enjoyed.
I have learned so much but still have so much to learn. What I have enjoyed most is meeting new people and hearing their stories – from a local “Rosie the Riveter” to couples that have been married more than 60 and 70 years and veterans who served both in peace time and in war. It has been exciting to see new businesses come into the area and I love going to the many events at the Jackson Health Care Facility. I have watched as the community banded together to grieve young lives lost and to support bereaved families. I’ve watched more high school football games in the past six months than I have in years!
Because I changed jobs, more changes came to my family. My daughter changed schools and our entire routine and rhythm changed as well. We’ve adjusted and are enjoying all the “new” that we are experiencing.
In the past six months, I have learned more about local government and gotten to know many elected officials. I have seen first-hand what a difficult job they have and I wish them the best. There are some careers that I would not be willing to try. Politics is one of these, but hats off to those who do!
My appreciation for first responders continues to grow. Just when I think I fully appreciate the police department, fire department and EMTs, I will either witness or hear of more of their deeds. I am so thankful for them and their willingness to serve our communities well.
I still get to be a part of what is going on in local schools and I love this part of my job. I love to see the creative learning projects that our teachers are implementing. The smiles on the students’ faces say so much! It’s been fun to celebrate learning milestones and scholarship signings. I look forward to being a part of many more of these. One of my favorite days recently was Special Needs Day at the fair. I loved watching the children have fun! I also loved watching the high school students from Jackson High School and the Interact Club as they enjoyed the fair with their charges. I have a special shout out to JHS Aggie No. 65. I don’t know him, but I know he rode the Scrambler at least 20 times with his buddy and not once did he look bored, annoyed or even sick! He was there for the younger child and I know that kid will never forget the way that football player treated him!
Unfortunately, our small area is not immune to trouble. Even though we may not like to admit it, bad news does pique our interests. The announcement of the closing of the Lowman plant and the uncertainty accompanying that is devastating. The loss of young lives by accidents, illnesses and murder strikes fear and makes me thankful for every single day that I have with my children. Manhunts that put our lawmen in harm’s way are not the way we like to envision our community and thankfully, these are isolated.
So, in the midst of this Thanksgiving season, I am truly grateful for the opportunity to write every day, to take pictures every day and to invest in the community every day. It has been a LONG time since I wrote for the University of Mobile newspaper and an even longer time since the Leroy High School paper, so I am immensely thankful that someone saw potential and took a chance on a true rookie reporter. I know that there is still so much for me to learn, and I am continuing to learn new things daily. One thing’s for sure, there is always something going on in the Clarke/Washington area.
There are occasions when I start to stress. What will I cover this week? What’s going on? What will I write about? These questions are always answered by press time, no matter if the week initially seems slow.
So, just like that… six months have passed. I am very thankful to be here and I am thankful for all the people that I have met in this new journey! I still want your stories! Call me!
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!
Message of Hope
Despite the rain and cold weather on Friday evening, a crowd gathered into tents outside of Jackson City Hall. The weather matched the somber occasion, a candlelight vigil for suicide awareness and prevention. The community event was organized by the family of Tripp Carter who tragically took his own life in June. Since his death, Carter’s family has made it their mission to increase community awareness of the horrible realities of losing a loved one to suicide, the stigma of mental illness and the warning signs of a downward emotional spiral that could possibly lead to suicide.
Living through the loss of a loved one to suicide is never something that anyone imagines will happen in their own family. However, according to statistics, one death by suicide occurs every 12 minutes in America. Suicide is a major public health concern and it is preventable.
As the crowd gathered, pictures of loved ones lost to suicide were placed on tables and names were written on paper butterflies that were attached to a remembrance wall. Encouraging songs were played as those in attendance gazed at the wall and the photographs and then quietly gathered colored honor beads to wear. The honor beads were to signify a personal connection to the cause and most people wore more than one set. The colors available indicated the connections: White – lost a child; Red – lost a spouse or partner; Gold – lost a parent; Orange – lost a sibling; Purple – lost a relative or friend; Silver – lost first responder or member of the military; Green – struggled personally; Blue – support the cause; Teal – friends and family of someone who struggles currently.
Members of the community gathered at Jackson City Hall Friday night for a candlelight vigil in memory of friends and family members lost to suicide and to extend support for anyone struggling with depression.
Pastor Braxton Eldridge of Ebenezer United Methodist Church in Wagarville welcomed the crowd and gave a brief devotion on comfort and told those gathered, “It’s up to us to break this chain and help these hurting people find hope.”
Following Eldridge’s remarks, Courtney Carter Weaver, the sister of Tripp Carter, addressed the crowd. Weaver provided the statistical data for suicides in America and challenged those in attendance to remember that “Beyond these statistics are human lives.”
Weaver stated that her goal in planning the event was to help anyone who was struggling realize that resources are available to help them cope. Weaver and her mother, Ann Carter, discussed the warning signs of suicide and encouraged those in attendance to be mindful of these as they interact daily with family and friends. “This is not a joke. I wish every day that we had seen more signs,” Carter stated tearfully, stating that she knew her son battled privately with depression, but no one would have ever guessed it due to his gregarious nature.
Several in attendance shared publicly how their lives had been changed forever when they received the news that a loved one had committed suicide. Each one pleaded for more awareness and less judgement of individuals who struggle with depression.
The ceremony ended with prayer and the singing of “Amazing Grace.” Survivors held their candles, shining light in honor of lives lost and hoping to shed light on a problem that has affected the community deeply.
The National Center for Suicide Prevention has a hotline available 24 hours a day,call 1-800-273-8255.
National Adoption Month
November is National Adoption Month. I am grateful for adoption, for families who choose to adopt and for mothers who realize that adoption is the best option. To adopt is to assume a position or to legally take another’s child to bring up as your own. My family has been forever altered by adoption, though it was the most unorthodox of circumstances.
In the summer of 1999, I went as a summer missionary in Birney, Montana. I was sent to the Northern Cheyenne Reservation as a children’s director. For twelve weeks, I lived with Harold and Cindy, the pastor of the mission church and his wife. Cindy and I spent every day together. I learned so much from a woman who had raised five children and was teaching the Indian women how to raise families and create homes. She reminded me so much of my grandmothers, only replace the southern flair with some quick-witted, tough western logic. Daily, we fed at least 20 children, assisted their mothers, planned events for them and just opened the church apartment to them. I became particularly attached to one of them.
He was the most beautiful person I had ever seen. His coal black hair was buzz cut so that everyone could see the largest, deepest brown eyes with the absolute longest eyelashes in the world. (Seriously? On a boy?) Anyway, he was two-years-old and he didn’t say much, but we were fast friends and Cindy and I, we were faster friends.
Fast forward, twelve weeks ended way too soon. I cried for Cindy. I cried for all the children I had met, especially one. I knew the likelihood of ever seeing them again was scarce. I was wrong though. Cindy was no longer my supervisor on summer missions; she became my mentor and my weekly phone call (long-distance back then). Through her, I was able to keep up with that little boy, the one I had framed pictures of in my grad school apartment.
For my wedding the next summer, I received a gift of a Northern Cheyenne Star Quilt that was handmade on the reservation. Cindy had sent it. She had let a certain little boy sign the card. Nearly 19 years later, that quilt is still a treasured possession.
Adoption? Right, back to that. I adopted Cindy and she adopted me. It wasn’t a legal thing, we just assumed a role in each other’s lives. And after I had been married eleven months, I drove to pick up a certain brown-eyed four-year-old who would assume a role in our home as our son. Eighteen years later, I still tear up thinking of how undeserving Mark and I were to be placed in that role, but I do not believe it was by accident. That child, now an independent, intelligent, industrious adult still brings us such joy. I won’t lie and say that all the years have been easy or fun, but I will say that I’d do it all over again.
Cindy and Harold are retired from ministry. They retired from Montana to snowy South Dakota. My daughter and I have driven out to visit them for the past six summers. Cindy has never met my husband in person and it has been eighteen years since she has been in the room with my son. However, the countdown is on! Next Monday, I’ll pick her up and she will spend Thanksgiving with us. I can hardly wait for the reunion!
So, as we anticipate the Thanksgiving holiday and the family gatherings that accompany it, I am thankful for adoption. I am thankful for those who are willing to assume a role that they weren’t born into, as Cindy did for me and for those like my son, who somehow find their place although no DNA is shared.
We don’t have to share DNA to share our lives.
Local Vets recall Vietnam
Vietnam. The name alone conjures images of jungles, troops, tents and helicopters. The name of the country has become synonymous with war. Although forty-five years have passed since the official end of the Vietnam War, the mention of it in conversation will still bring out strong opinions and even stronger division. This conflict began in 1955 between Communist North Vietnam and the government of South Vietnam. The United States became involved in the war in 1955. The mission was to protect South Vietnam from coming under the Communist Rule of North Vietnam. Sadly, the mission was not accomplished when the U.S. troops were removed in the 1970s. Vietnam was the first televised war. Each night, Americans saw images of the carnage and representation of the body count. By the end of the war, that count totaled 58,193 Americans; 1,181 of these individuals were Alabamians. Two local Vietnam vets were willing to tell their stories.
Perugini recalls gun boat attack
Danny Perugini had a 23-year career as a sailor in the United States Navy. The Galveston, Tex. native worked as a storekeeper/ supply man. His responsibilities included ordering all the supplies for the ship, including ammunition and food. The majority of his work was done on a naval destroyer. However, his most vivid memories of Vietnam are the result of a gun boat.
Naval gun boats are vessels with small, ridged hulls. The fleet of gunboats in Vietnam grew to include 250 of the ships. Often called the “brown water navy” because of their patrol of the Vietnamese rivers, the boats were critical as Vietnam is located on a peninsula that contains many inland waterways. Perugini completed three tours in Vietnam, but admits that he didn’t expect to return from the final one.
The gunboat that Perugini and members of his platoon were on was attacked while patrolling a river in 1967. The U.S. vessel exchanged heavy fire with the North Vietnamese before the ship broke apart. “I ended up in a lily pad,” Perugini recalls. Many of his shipmates were not so fortunate as several were killed or seriously injured.
The U.S. soldiers were in the river for approximately ten minutes, which to Perugini and other survivors “seemed like 10 days”. The men were rescued and recovered by the South Vietnamese, which was fortunate. Perugini remembers the fear of not knowing if they were being rescued by the South Vietnamese or taken as prisoners of war by the North Vietnamese. The men were “relieved” that the latter was not the case.
Perugini returned home to a country much divided over the issue of the war. In spite of several brushes with death, he chose to remain in the Navy as a career. After Vietnam, he was stationed in Norfolk, Virginia. His last assignment was storekeeper aboard the USS Constellation, a supercarrier based out of San Diego.
Gay Dewitt enrolled in the ROTC program at the University of Alabama. When he finished his business degree, he willingly enlisted in the U.S. Army.He first reported to Fort Sill, Okla. And then went to flight school in Ft. Walters, Texas for the first phase of flight training. The second phase of flight training took place in Fort Rucker. After successfully completing all the requirements of the Alabama base, DeWitt was equipped to fly Huey helicopters in Vietnam.
Dewitt completed a one-year tour in Vietnam as a Huey pilot from 1968-1969. Along with the pilot were three others in each Huey, a co-pilot, a gunner and a crew chief.
DeWitt’s followed in the footsteps of many in his family who from the time of the Revolutionary War, joined the ranks to fight for our nation. Although he had trained and was equipped of itl Leaving home was tough because Dewitt was married and had a young child. There were small blocks of time when he was allowed rest and relaxation time in Hawaii where he could see his family. Although his active military duty was during one of the most divisive conflicts ever entered in by American troops, DeWitt served proudly as his ancestors did, giving 29 years and 9 months to a cause that he believed in. After his tour in Vietnam, DeWitt was in the Tennessee and Texas National Guards before returning home to Alabama where he retired from the Alabama Guard.
DeWitt went to Vietnam as an individual rather than a part of a unit. He was assigned to the 7th Squadron, 17th Cavalry (Air), an air cavalry unit. The base camp had basic wooden buildings that kept the rain off the soldiers. Nearby in Bambi Tuit, the soldiers camped in tents. Vietnam is known for its thick jungles and abundance of rains, two things that Hollywood gets right in its depiction of the Vietnam War. The mud was thick and covered the ground. There was no hot water to bathe in. DeWitt states that there are two things that he clearly remembers about stepping off the plane in Vietnam—the heat and the smell. The climate of the nation is hot and humid. There are two seasons. In the rainy season, the mud and water threaten to overtake anything in their paths. In the dry season, red dust covers everything. The smell that DeWitt can so vividly recall is not pleasant. Rather, it is the result of human feces being burned with diesel in the latrines. DeWitt remembers wondering if the smell would ever fade from his clothes after returning to the states.
A country divided
Many soldiers who have fought overseas have returned home with a hero’s welcome—banners, photographs, parades and support. Unfortunately, this did not happen with the majority of Vietnam War vets. DeWitt recalls arriving at a base in Washington D.C. and being told immediately to change into civilian clothing before going to the airport. The American public was could be hostile to soldiers who had already endured atrocities.
A pilot’s mission
A helicopter is not a vehicle known for stealth. It’s noise and visibility would often endanger its crew, but the crew had a mission and assumed the risks. DeWitt’s mission was to insert troops into areas where fighting was anticipated. At times, he would have to function as a medical evacuation pilot to get injured soldiers to care. If this were the case, the area that would be flown into was considered extremely “hot” or dangerous due to the presence of the enemy forces. Without modern GPS tools and accurate maps, DeWitt would take long-range patrol soldiers to assigned areas where they would attempt to gather intelligence. Relying largely on his memory, DeWitt would return to retrieve his fellow soldier. “You don’t leave people. You have a fellow American on the ground. You have to get them out and you do it.”
A sacred duty
Perugini and DeWitt are just two of the many local Vietnam veterans in the local area. While their experiences differ, their resolve and commitment to the protection of our nation is the same. They knew the risks associated with becoming American soldiers, especially during the 1960s, when all eyes were on the war torn country of Vietnam.
The voting house
Before there was a Frankville Fire Station, voting took place in a tiny wood building that was only used for voting. My Pawpaw called it “the voting house” and every single time it was opened, we went. Probably one of the most interesting things about this is that my grandfather could not read, yet he never missed exercising his right to vote. Granted, he enjoyed going to “the voting house” and seeing neighbors that he had not seen in a while, but he was also educated on who was running, especially in the local races.
Pawpaw loved watching television and listening to the radio, so he got the information. He also listened to various opinions at “Geigy” where he worked for nearly four decades. My grandmother also had to read any political fliers that came in the mail. If they were lengthy or from a candidate that she didn’t deem worthy, the fliers usually got trashed before he arrived home. That’s how marriage works sometimes. Despite his illiteracy, he had a deep interest in his community and his country and was far from ignorant. As the oldest son and because he was strong and healthy, he stayed home and worked in the fields and in the log woods. School was not a priority for his family, but he learned the importance of education and stressed it often to his children and grandchildren.
I can recall standing in “the voting house” and listening as my grandmother whispered the ballot to Pawpaw. I can recall his reactions to various candidates’ names. She may have read them quietly, but “Rooster” as my grandpa was called, didn’t do anything quietly. “Nope. Not that one. No. That one’s a crook. What’s the other one’s name?” I really wish I could remember who the poll workers were in those days! I am quite sure they remember my grandparents well. I remember watching the process, being told how important that it was. After Pawpaw voted, we stood to the side and watched as Mawmaw quietly read and marked her ballot. I remember asking Pawpaw if I could read the names to him the next time we came to the “voting house.” He told me if I worked hard in school that I could. That became my goal and eventually I was allowed to read his ballot to him. I was able to do this for several elections and I will never forget it.
I really hope that readers aren’t shocked by this. It was a different time and it was an extremely rural situation. Now, there are trained individuals who are paid to read to illiterate voters. If the same was true in the 1980s, I am thankful that they allowed my grandmother and later, me to read for him. It gave me a greater appreciation for both education and democracy. Because of my experiences in “the voting house,” I am extremely thankful for my education, for the right to choose the candidates that I feel inclined to choose and for the fact that there are choices in both democracy and in education.
The fact that someone who could not read the ballot was not intimidated by the voting process is commendable. The idea that he cared enough to listen to and participate in discussions related to politics fascinates me. However, he never was shy about anything, especially his opinion.
It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I hold each of my grandparents in high esteem. Each of them has a unique story that is a part of who I am. At every election though, as I pull into the fire station parking lot, I think of Pawpaw, the “voting house” and the fact that I first “voted” in the 1984 Presidential Election because that’s the first ballot I was ever allowed to read.
God bless America!
Ministering to the community
Meeting authors is always a thrill for me. One day, I hope to join their ranks, but I don’t have a topic yet, much less a manuscript. When I “met” with Bridgett Henson, we had actually known each other for years. She and I both live in the Frankville community and we met years ago when we were both volunteers at a Vacation Bible School in the community. Our children are the same age and I am privileged to call Bridgett my friend.
“I always knew I wanted to write. I don’t recall a time when I didn’t feel the need to put stories on paper.” Henson penned her first book, aptly titled, “Are we there yet?” when she was in the first grade. At that age, children are reading picture books, so Henson fully illustrated her story.
As a student in Choctaw County schools, Henson excelled in reading and writing. These school tasks became a way for Henson to escape the dark reality of an unhappy home life. To protect her mind from the problems in her environment, Henson read vivaciously, studying the style and rhetoric of her favorite authors. The longing to become an author never waned, but it did take the backseat to being a wife, a mother, a church leader and a community volunteer.
In 2010, Henson decided to put the story that had been in her heart and mind for so long on paper. A devout Christian and a women’s ministry leader, Henson knew that one of the main struggles that individuals had expressed to her was this question, “Can the Lord really help me through real, tough life problems?” She wanted the women that she ministered to and even her friends to know that the answer to this question is a most definite, “Yes.” Henson set to work on her first novel, “Whatever He Wants” that same year. She says that she wrote 90,000 words for the novel over a period of 30 days. Pleased with her work and believing that God had entrusted her with this manuscripts, she began to seek a publisher.
The frustration came immediately following the elation of finishing and submitting a manuscript to several different editors and publishers. None of the publishers that read her manuscript was willing to publish it because of its references to Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
Henson was unwilling to compromise on this and began to pray about her options, never doubting that the dream to write had been given by God. “It was during revival and I told God that I needed a publisher. Instead of giving me one, He made me one.” Henson began researching what she would need to do to become a publisher. Henson’s desire was to remain true to her Christian convictions and publish not only her writings, but the writings of other Christian authors.
Thus, Empowered Publications was born and in 2012, Whatever He Wants was published. It is the first in the “Whatever” series and tells the story of alcoholism, drug abuse, physical and emotional abuse and the effects these have on individuals and their families. While tackling these heavy issues, Henson brilliantly weaves into the story the redemptive power of God’s grace and His ability to restore individuals and families. “For me, these books are an extension of ministry, they remind the reader that no matter what you have done or what’s been done to you, God can forgive and restore and He wants to do that for His children.” Empowered Publications has published more than 50 books presently.
While Henson’s books are works of fiction, she has seen the devastation of alcoholism and abuse during her own life and in the lives of the many women that she counsels through her work at Mission of Hope and as co-director of Camp Beno for Girls.
Henson is the founder of Broken Bow Ministries, a resource that is expected to become a part of the Clarke County landscape in the near future. Broken Bow Ministries has established a board of directors and is developing programming for what will be the first transitional housing program for women in need in the area.
The mission of Broken Bow Ministries is to provide a safe, controlled environment where clients have access to better themselves spiritually and financially with the hopes of becoming an independent, productive member of society. The program includes five phases that will assist women as they overcome addictions or abusive relationships and re-establish their independence. More information can be found at https:// brokenbowministries.com/.
While she has accomplished many things and continues to look for ways that she can invest in the lives of others, Bridgett Henson never remembers a time that she wanted to be anything, but a writer. Like most young girls, she had hopes of being married and becoming a mother, but professionally she wanted to write. Fortunately, both her personal and professional goals have been met.
Bridgett is married to Ernie Henson and is called “Mama” by Adam, Nick and Holly. This wife, mom, speaker, teacher, author, ministry founder and publisher still finds time to be involved in the ministries of Midway Assembly of God and in her community.
More information about Henson and Empowered Publications can be obtained from bridgetthenson.com.
“I was born and spent the first part of my life in a log barn in Coffeeville. I left school at 17 to help with the farming and the plowing. When I got my invitation to the Army, I was glad because I’d be getting away from that durn mule.” The invitation that 93-year-old Thomas Beverly speaks of is his draft notice. While he was plowing fields in Clarke County, a war was being fought a world away. On August 13, 1943, just four months into his eighteenth year, Beverly was “invited” to serve his country.
As Beverly traveled to Anniston for his physical and continued on to Atlanta for his GI clothing, war raged in Europe. From Atlanta, Beverly and hundreds of others boarded a troop train and their destination was unknown. “They kept it a secret because we didn’t want the Germans to know what America was up to. We got off the train in Cape Cod for basic training.” Meanwhile, the Allied Invasion of Sicily was successful as American troops overtook the city of Messina. From basic training, Beverly went to Louisiana to train to drive a half-track, an armored personnel carrier. He and his unit returned to Maryland and anxiously awaited their Atlantic crossing.
“When we got to the dock, there was a ship there so big that you couldn’t hardly see from one end of it to the other. It was the Queen Elizabeth. There was 16,000 boys that loaded that ship to go to Europe. The ship docked in Scotland. That’s where we unloaded.” After their sea voyage, the young men were loaded onto trains again and sent into England for the next 4 months. In February 1945, Beverly and his company crossed the English Channel into Le Havre, France. “We headed east to catch up with the war and to keep pushing the German army way back deep into Germany.” Beverly experienced battle action on the banks of the Rhine River as the Allies made a final push toward Berlin. Beverly recalls crossing the Rhine on a pontoon boat as the Allies attacked Germany from the east and the Soviet Union pressured the Third Reich from the west.
The war ends
“The Germans would overtake a town and then they would go through the streets and take the able-bodied men and they would send the people to concentration camps where awful things happened. Things that are just hard to believe because they are so awful.” Beverly recalled the Dachau concentration camp, which was the first of Hitler’s infamous camps and the atrocities that occurred there. “People visit that place now, just to see it.” As he said those words, he shook his head. Seventy-three years later and he still recalls the brutalities of war. “The Germans were a pitiful sight. Starving, torn up clothes.”
The Germans blew up bridges and culverts to keep the Allies from advancing. The Allies continued their push into Switzerland as German soldiers began throwing down their weapons. The war ended officially on September 2, 1945. “We were somewhere down in Germany when they said the war was over. I can’t tell you where we were because I don’t know. We never really knew where we were. We stayed on the move. We didn’t have time to even take baths. Every morning we got up, got us a little bite to eat, got in the half-track and we’d convoy.” Beverly and his company were then stationed in the German city of Munich, which was well-preserved. Beverly referred to his time in Munich as “easy duty” patrolling the streets of Munich.
Beverly returned to Jackson in April, 1946. He was greeted by his wife, Annie Jewel Pugh Beverly, also a native of Coffeeville. The couple’s only child, Thomas “Tommy” Ervin Beverly was born the following year. The Beverlys celebrated their 74th wedding anniversary on September 13.
“An old soldier”
A quote that Beverly loves is a statement that General Douglas MacArthur voiced in his farewell speech to Congress in 1951, “Old soldiers never die; they simply fade away.” Beverly celebrated his 93rd birthday in April and has experienced much since receiving his “invitation” from the United States Government, but he is far from fading away. Beverly still drives himself around Jackson and interacts with his friends daily at the Jackson Nutrition Center. He also goes to Jackson Healthcare Facility daily to visit with his sweetheart, Jewel. Throughout his working years, he was a mechanic, a pipe fitter, an insurance agent and most memorably a soldier, a member of the greatest generation.
“I’d love to see one article in The South Alabamian where you ask for the World War II veterans to contact you and share their stories. We don’t need to lose these stories. There’s not many of us left. You think you can make that happen?” His question resonates and YES, The South Alabamian would love to hear stories from all of our veterans from any and every conflict or war.
“You know today is voting day?”, he asks as he heads toward the downtown fire station. “Everybody ought to go vote.” He grips his cane and sets out to perform his civic responsibility. I couldn’t help but wonder what he thought about as he carefully read and studied the ballot. I watched him from a distance, just wondering if he was thinking, “You know, election day is possible because people like me have historically been willing to sacrifice and protect this country?” I doubt he was thinking that because while he is a proud American and honorable veteran, he is also extremely humble and simply thankful for his country. He may not have had those thoughts, but this reporter did.
Thank you, Mr. Beverly, not only for your service, but for your example and commitment to citizenship.
Any veterans willing to share their stories may contact Shannon at The South Alabamian, 251-246-4494 or email@example.com.
Azie Taylor Morton
She was born to a hearing impaired and mute mother in 1936. She never knew her father. It is possible that Azie Taylor’s mother was a victim of sexual assault of which her birth was a product. Because she was African- American and because she was poor, not much is truly known about her childhood in Dale, Texas, other than she picked cotton and was raised by her maternal grandparents.
Although Dale was in proximity to Austin, it did not have schools for African- American students. Azie’s grandparents saw their granddaughter’s natural curiosity, and ability to retain information and enrolled her in the only school that was available to her at the time, a charity-sponsored school called the Texas Blind, Deaf and Orphaned School. Taylor’s teachers quickly noticed that the shy girl was naturally gifted in the area of mathematics and mastered her other subjects so quickly that she became a high school graduate at the age of 16. Uncertain of what to do with her education because her only frame of reference to making a living was cotton farming, Azie sought the wisdom of her math teacher who had become a mentor.
With help and encouragement from a teacher who believed in this poor, seemingly forgotten young girl, Azie enrolled at Huston-Tilloston, Austin’s all-black college where she majored in math. As a cum laude graduate, Taylor’s skill was noted by the faculty. She applied to graduate school at the University of Texas. Her application was denied, not because she lacked the ability to attain an advanced degree, but because at the time, UT did not allow African- American women into its graduate school. Disappointed, but determined not to allow this setback to keep her from success, Taylor became a teacher, modeling the traits that she had seen in her high school math teacher as she taught at a school for delinquent girls before being hired by Huston-Tilloston as an assistant to the president. A bigger opportunity knocked and Taylor answered, becoming a staff member at a major Texas labor union.
After taking this job, Taylor married James Morton. The Mortons were each gifted in the areas of math and finance. Their skills led them to Washington, D.C. where they became involved in politics. Azie Taylor Morton served on the Committee on Equal Opportunity Employment developed by President John F. Kennedy for more than two decades. In 1977, 41-year-old Morton became the Treasurer of the United States. Yes, the signature on paper currency from the years 1977-1981 was that of one who was the daughter of a deaf, mute, intellectually disabled mother, an unknown father, who was raised by poor, uneducated grandparents who believed in her, and challenged by teachers who knew her potential Azie Taylor Morton. She was the first African- American to ever possess the title of Treasurer of the United States.
Despite her important title and the fact that she would remain involved politically until 2001, Morton never forgot about her family. She and her husband raised two daughters and Morton challenged her daughters to do good for others without expecting anything in return. Morton established programs to assist young women who much like herself, would never be able to obtain an education if not for assistance from others. The Mortons frequently opened their home on holidays to young girls who were homeless or estranged from their families. They provided gifts of books, clothing, furniture and financial assistance to girls who needed these things to make it in college. Azie would never accept payment, but would request of those who benefitted to better their own lives so that they could benefit others. One of the ideals that she upheld and instilled in her own daughters and in many other young ladies was this, “It isn’t luck, and it isn’t circumstances, and it isn’t being born a certain way that causes a person’s future to become what it becomes.” Morton challenged all of her girls to resolve to use their gifts to make their lives and the lives of others better in every way.
Her life began in poverty with very few believing that she would be able to master basic skills or live anywhere besides her grandparents’ farm. With the faith of her grandparents, the encouragement of her teachers, and an internal resolve to make a positive difference, Azie Taylor Morton not only left her mark on American history, but also on countless generations.
Plant your feet on a firm foundation. Find your cheerleaders. Seek out opportunities that will make a difference in your own life and in those of others.
Also, if anyone has a dollar bill from 1977-1981 with Azie’s stamped signature, I’ll trade you a $5 bill for it.
Weekly columnist. Feature Writer.