Plan allows space for 21st Century war dead
During the weekend of Memorial Day, 2005, Marine Brandon Presley paid his family a surprise visit. That was not unusual for Brandon, he was always full of surprises. He had told them he was traveling from North Carolina to St. Louis for a ball game. Then he popped up unannounced in Batesville.
Those delighted by the unexpected visit included his young cousin, Mathew Woods, then age three.
During last weekend, Memorial Day, 2006, Mathew Woods with his parents, Meg and Rusty Woods, visited the war memorial monument on the Batesville square to acknowledge this community’s tribute to the memory of their beloved Brandon and to Daron Lunsford and Panola’s war dead of the last century. Accompanying Mathew was a stuffed dog toy from Build A Bear.
If you have ever been to Build A Bear, it’s a toy chain which allows kids to custom build Teddy Bears and other stuffed animals. They can choose from all manner of outfits and accessories, all priced separately, of course. It’s a fascinating retail concept. And parents and grandparents stand there and pay big bucks for the privilege.
So when Mathew had visited Build A Bear, he had immediately chosen a Marine uniform for the dog that he had chosen and then stuffed. His mom gently coaxed him to consider other options, including a baseball uniform, before making his final decision. After all, he’d soon be playing tee-ball.
Mathew was adamant about his choice of the Marine uniform for his bear. He was also insistent on bringing the Marine bear with him to the Memorial Park last weekend.
It’s hard to know what goes on in the minds of three- and four-year-olds, just as it is hard to know what they will recall from that age 20 or 30 years later. Mathew’s mother took the photo you see here to solidify some of those memories for her son.
Steps taken by the Batesville Exchange Club to solidify in our memories the names of Panola people who have died fighting this country’s wars culminated with the erection in 1977 of the war memorial monument that has become focal point of our downtown Memorial Park. In a project that extended several years, Exchange Club members raised money and gathered appropriate information to erect the monument bearing the names of all those from Panola known to have fallen in the 20th Century’s wars.
Several years later, another name was added at the bottom of the monument, that of Captain Melvin Wayne Finch, whose death as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War was confirmed with the discovery of his remains in 1985. That accomplished, the memorial to Panola’s war dead of the last century was essentially complete.
Members of the Exchange Club have watched closely as the events of the 21st Century have unfolded, creating a need for more space to bear more names. They have designated the portion of the monument now bearing the names of the 20th Century war dead as the ?College Street? side. At the appropriate time, the names of those who fall in this war of the 21st Century will be added to what the Exchange Club has now designated the Panola Avenue side.
At the conclusion of this war, the names of those fallen will be etched into the monument in alphabetical order.
Hopefully, there will be only two names on the monument.
Hopefully, events will allow those names to soon be added.
And at that point 20 or 30 years from now when Mathew Woods and his generation pass that memorial, the names they see etched in stone there will provoke real, living memories of the people the names represent, just as older generations recall living memories of the people whose names are listed on the other side.