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Selma’s Northside honors veteranscomment (0)

August 29, 2002

By Sue Ann Miller

Members of Selma’s Northside Baptist Church are intent on sending out a message to the world that they are strong believers in God and country. Twenty years ago they installed lights that radiate upon their church’s steeple so that people who travel into Selma from the north on highway 22 will be reminded that Jesus is the Light of the world.

Last year, after the Sept. 11 tragedies, Pastor Kenny Hatcher started pondering the importance of honoring the church members, past and present, who have served in the United States armed forces.

Knowing that the church’s steeple was illuminated at night, he came up with the idea of establishing a vet­erans monument in front of the church, complete with an American flag flying high above it. This too, he reasoned, could be illuminated at night, creating an impact of seeing God’s house magnified, as well as the country’s symbol of freedom, the American flag.

He approached the church deacons with his vision and they unanimously embraced it. A committee was formed and the work began.

Put committee to work

“I put the history committee to work locating names of veterans who had attended church here and at the same time we began taking up a love offering for the project,” he said, noting that the church was established in 1943.

Hatcher said that initially the committee came up with 45 names but as the research continued it reached 194. “The Air Force used to have Craig Field Air Force base located in Selma,” he said in way of explanation for the high number of names collected. “This is as complete a list as we could track down,” he said.

The names listed include past and present church members who fought or served in World War I, World War II, the Korean Conflict, Vietnam, Desert Storm and the Reserves.

Preparation was begun on a red brick curved monument where all the names would be engraved on a 2-feet by 2-feet brass plaque. An inscription was also planned at the bottom of the plaque, but because of the unexpected number of names, there was no available space.

Hatcher noted that one church member, twice widowed Willie Mae Chance, had the names of both of her veteran husbands on the plaque.

On a bright Sunday morning in early June a dedication ceremony was held during the morning worship service. A crowd of around 200 attended, including local dignitaries. “We had people come from all over the city,” Hatcher said. The oldest attending veteran was 92-year-old Earl Goodwin, a former Alabama state senator. He was a glider pilot in World War II.

Place of honor

Forty veterans attended the ceremony, and they stood in a place of honor and passed a folded American flag down a processional line.

The flag was then attached to the 35-foot flagpole that can tolerate up to 100 mile an hour wind force.

Hatcher led the congregation in the Pledge of Allegiance followed by the singing of the national anthem. Concluding the ceremony, Hatcher,  a talented vocalist, sang a moving rendition of Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA.”

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