July 4, 2002
As Mississippians celebrate the nation's 226th birthday today, many also will reflect on the
personal sacrifices that have preserved their home and their freedom.
Meridian, Lauderdale County and East
Mississippi is no different. Everyone has their own story to tell about why they feel they way they do about their country.
Here are some of them.
Battalion Chief Howard Gibson of the Meridian Fire Department was at the Central Fire Station on Tuesday morning, Sept. 11, when he saw what he thought was a horrible accident on television.
He said he and other firefighters wanted to reach out when they saw the World Trade Center towers collapse. He said they knew there were a number of firefighters in the towers along with all the others who would not be going home that day.
The Meridian Fire Department reached out as best it could after the catastrophe by holding a barbecue and raising money for relief efforts in New York. Local firefighters went to New York to deliver their contributions and support for their counterparts.
Meridian police officer Travis Ruffin served in the U.S. Navy aboard the USS Saratoga during Desert Storm and is now in the Naval Reserves.
Ruffin said he can relate to the men and women currently oversees fighting in the "war on terrorism."
Almost on a daily basis, Ruffin's profession fores him to make a decision on whether to take a person's freedom. He said the decision is not always an easy one.
He said the myth of police officers being hard is just that.
To Jessie Warren, 74, Meridian, freedom means everything.
Warren was born in Dallas, Texas, and left home at the age of 13. He has lived all over the West including California, Arizona and Nevada.
Warren said he's grateful for the veterans who have protected American's freedoms and helped guarantee rights.
About 12 years ago, Warren and his girlfriend came to Meridian. They liked it so much they decided to stay and he works as the information officer in the lobby of the Raymond P. Davis Courthouse Annex.
Warren said he can't understand why America was attacked on the Sept. 11, but to him, "the United States is great."
Eunice McDill's husband, Chief Aviation Pilot Edward F. McDill, served 30 years in the U.S. Navy. After his death in 1994, she wrote a poem in his honor and submitted it to a poetry contest. The poem was published in the book "Arcadia Poetry Anthology" in the winter of 1994.
McDill said her price for freedom was being away from her husband the entire first year of their marriage.
Her poem follows:
When I was a bride at the age of 17,
My husband had to go.
He was called to fight in the war,
So our country would remain free.
With my heart full of sadness
I hugged him goodbye,
And stood and watched him leave.
Still a bride in my 40s,
I saw him leave again.
I loved my country
So I waved farewell,
And waited for his return.
Now that I am 70,
Once more I say goodbye.
Not only has my love gone away
But my love has gone to stay.
I cannot put my arms around him,
I cannot wave him on his way.
I can only remember all the happiness
We shared in our day.
T. A. Johnson Sr.
Recalling the years of World War II brings pain to the face of T.A. Johnson Sr., a Chunky farmer who served as a rifleman in the Army Infantry. As a member of the 2nd Platoon 3rd Squadron, he was wounded three times in his right leg, right arm and right hand. He received the Purple Heart Award and two Oak Leaf Clusters for his wounds and service in the line of duty.
For the three years Johnson spent in Normandy, he said he really didn't develop relationships because he discovered early that friends all too often became casualties. It has been hard for him to handle ever since coming home.
Johnson said an interview with The Meridian Star was the first time he has talked about the war. In emotional comments, he said the horrors of war quickly bring life and freedom into perspective.