Words by Anna Lee Vaughn | Images by Justin Hunter
Despite the rain and chilly weather, citizens of Walker County gathered at Gay Reed Cemetery on Friday, November 10, to honor fallen veterans. Vets for Christ, a program of Desperation Church in Jasper, held the memorial to honor veterans and further its outreach to the community.
When veteran Zac Ingram saw the need for a support group in the area, he approached Debra Gillespie and Mike Jones, U.S. military veterans and members of Desperation Church. Together, the three formed Vets for Christ, a local Bible study and support group for veterans.
“Our main objective is to help veterans lost in their lives. I went through PTSD, and I went to see a VA shrink. But I realized that I couldn’t do it by myself. Up until that point, I had lost everything. Then God began to restore what I had,” says Jones. “I’m more than happy to lead this group because what healed me can heal them. We don’t need to drown our sorrows with alcohol or drugs. We want to see people walking proudly with their heads high and happy with who they are. Our goal is to introduce people to the Christ that heals us.”
140 veterans are buried at Gay Reed Cemetery, a local decades-old burial ground. Gillespie organized Friday’s memorial and partnered with several sponsors to purchase 100 handmade wreaths from God’s Gifted Creations by Vickie Flores Gillespie – each wreath a unique combination of red, white, and blue – to be placed on the graves of fallen soldiers.
Ingram opened the event with prayer, stating, “For those soldiers who came back home, we put on a smile. But, some soldiers didn’t come back home, and we think of them daily. Some nights are harder than others, and it means so much to see that people still care.”
Jones followed, speaking of his experience serving overseas and encouraging others to, “Thank a veteran today.”
Made possible by Vets for Christ, Gay Reed Cemetery now has a flag flying proudly over its grounds for the first time. After the raising of the flag, Vets for Christ, Curry High School students, and family members of deceased soldiers placed each of the 100 wreaths on hooks around the cemetery while Ingram recited scriptures – Ephesians 6:11, John 15:13, and Romans 13:7.
Jasper Junior High School student Hope Lloyd rounded out the ceremony with a beautiful rendition of ‘Taps,’ before Debra Gillespie offered the closing prayer and statement, saying, “To be a soldier takes faith; faith is taking a step when the outcome is not guaranteed. To be a follower of Jesus Christ requires spiritual faith; spiritual faith is acting on God’s Word without seeing the outcome. You have to take a risk of faith. You’ve been called to the Kingdom… the time is now!”
This memorial culminated in the recitation of the ‘Soldier’s Psalm,’ Psalm 91, which states in verses 9-11, “Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place – the Most High, who is my refuge– no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent. For He will command His angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.” WL
Vets for Christ would like to thank Zac Ingram; Nelson, Bryan, and Cross; The Pridemores; Linda Burns; Bernard’s Store for Men; Christina Jordan; Recovering Redemption of Desperation Church; and God’s Gifted Creations by Vickie Flores Gillespie for contributing to this memorial. For more information on Vets for Christ, contact Debra Gillespie at (205) 512-5764 or Mike Jones at (205) 541-2792.