MHS vets remember classmates with walk
Every step they took along their 12-mile journey, they took in memory of the 17 veterans from their Monette High School Class of 1967.
On Wednesday morning, braving 30 degree temperatures and cross country winds at 15 mph, Robert Chambers and Dick Pace began their journey from Southland, at Highway 18/Highway 135 intersection, heading east to their home in Monette to honor their classmates and friends.
"We walked today to show our gratitude and appreciation for our veterans and our freedom," Chambers said. "We had 27 boys in our graduation class of 1967, and 17 of us went into service after high school. Most were only 17 or 18 years old at the time and had not traveled far from home, much less out of the U.S.A. This was during the Vietnam War era, where thousands of soldiers lost their lives. Everyone went bravely, to do what they felt was their duty to do, to serve their country. Fortunately, all of our classmates made it back home again."
The 17 servicemen in the MHS Class of 1967 included Army soldiers Roger Dunn, Marvin Fry, Mike Knoll, Mickey Littlejohn, Robert McFarlin, Wayne Nettles, Fred Rolland, Chambers and Pace. Those serving in the Air Force were Johnny Crisco, Rickey Copeland and Billy Marshall. Marines included Jim Chambers, Charles Cloninger, Stephen Finch, Mike Gadberry and Virgil Grant.
The veterans of 1967 served as Honor Guards for the last Monette High School reunion August 28, 2010, working as a ceremonial unit to kick off the day's festivities.
"It was during that time that Robert (Chambers) and I first talked about doing something special to honor our class veterans as well as all the others who served," Pace said. "It was a frightening time for our country. Many young men had left home and were never able to return. We didn't know what to expect. We just gave it our best. We just kept moving."
"There were times we wondered if we would ever be back home again," Chambers said. "I thought about my high school days and my friends while I was away, and longed to see them again. In 1969 I was coming out of the clothing commissary at Fort Campbell, Ky., when I saw Dick Pace coming around the corner a distance away. I yelled and waved at him, but we were too far away to speak or visit. He smiled and waved back at me. It was still a comfort to know he was there and was still alive. We never saw each other again until we made it back home."
Chambers and Pace had originally planned their walk for Veteran's Day, Nov. 11, but a family emergency had taken Pace out of state. They met at the Monette American Legion building Wednesday morning at 7 a.m., donned in warm clothing, with American flags in hand. They were greeted by classmate Larry Ladd, of Lake City, who transported them to Southland. Before the walk began, the men bowed their heads in prayer giving thanks for their classmates and all the other veterans.
Mayor Jon Milligan welcomed the men to Lake City at 8 a.m. Lake City Fireman Donnie Hutcheson and Monette Fireman Drew Kimery provided a fire truck with flashing red light to escort the men from Southland to Monette. Students at Riverside and BIC schools came outside to chant "U.S.A." as the walkers approached. A group of friends held flags and shouted support as the men entered Black Oak. All along the Highway 18 route passersby would wave, honk and salute when they saw the American flags blowing in the wind. Mayor Chub Qualls and friends welcomed the men back to Monette.
"The military code is to never leave any soldier behind," Chambers said. "There is a great comfort in knowing that. Everyone wants to come home and plant their feet on American soil again. We walked today for all those who longed to walk here again and couldn't, for all of those who dreamed of home, and those dreams kept them going."