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Remembering our heroes

WINTON – While bullets and bombs leave physical scars that can heal, the ravages of war run deeper emotionally.

By placing themselves in harm’s way in an effort to protect America’s freedom, many of our brave men and women in uniform stand a better chance than most when it comes to witnessing, or being a part of, a traumatic event. As is the case during countless wars, lives are lost in those battles, or there is pain and suffering inflicted by a physical wound.

But for those who survive, many suffer from PTSD….combat related Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Some battle that emotional demon for years; for others, life’s journey is far too short.

Unfortunately, the latter applies to North Carolina Army National Guard Specialist Jason Allen Smallwood of Como. His life ended at the young age of 24 on Nov. 5, 2012…losing his battle with PTSD after a year long deployment in Afghanistan.

Now, the Hertford County Board of Commissioners is engaged in discussion over ways to honor all military veterans in the county, to include Smallwood.

At a recent meeting of the board, a representative of the Smallwood family addressed the commissioners regarding the importance of remembering military veterans in the county. That representative suggested the passage of a resolution by the board, one that salutes the sacrifices made by members of the United States Armed Forces, to include Smallwood, as well as recognizing the need to support all veterans of Hertford County.

“The correspondence I have received from the family asks the county to explore how we can partner with them in creating a (veterans) memorial,” said Hertford County Manager Loria Williams. “It’s my understanding there’s someone interested in donating some land (for the memorial).”

Following the board’s passage of the resolution, which included an acknowledgement that veterans suffer from stress and other mental health conditions, Commissioner Curtis Freeman, a military veteran, opened the dialogue about the memorial.

“It’s not a matter of if we are going to erect a veterans memorial in Hertford County, but rather when and where,” Freeman said. “Two ideas that (Commissioner) Johnnie (Ray Farmer, who also served in the military) and I have discussed, and we will share with the board, is either building it out at the new courthouse or, and I know we haven’t completed discussions about using the land where the current courthouse stands, placing it there as we have talked about putting a nice park there.”

Commissioner Ronald Gatling suggested that the board discuss the issue at their next scheduled work session.

“The county needs to have a veterans memorial; there are a lot of veterans here and we need to honor them,” Freeman remarked. “We could look at having the county’s old cannon (a 1918 model) restored and placed as a complimentary piece with the memorial.”

Smallwood served with the North Carolina Army National Guard from May 2009 until his death. He was a combat engineer with the 883rd Sapper Company based in Winston Salem. His job was among the most dangerous, that of providing safe passage for his comrades by clearing IED’s (Improvised Explosive Device) from the roads in Afghanistan.

During his short stint in the military, Smallwood earned numerous awards and commendation medals, including the Purple Heart with Merit, Combat Action Badge, and the North Carolina Army National Guard Commendation Medal.

Smallwood was a 2006 graduate of Gates County High School.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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