Memorial Day 2022: All Gave Some, Some Gave All

As I sit here tonight, I’m reminded of what Memorial Day stands for and represents. Memorial Day is a day set aside each year to remember those brave American heroes, men and women alike, that gave their lives for this country.

You see, Memorial Day isn’t about the barbecuing, parties, lakes, or anything other than remembering those that didn’t make it out of those bullet-riddled battlefields.

If you ever think that we don’t live in the greatest country ever known to man, there are 624 acres out in Arlington, Virginia, that say differently. They call it Arlington National Cemetery. There you will find more than 415,000 reasons to be thankful to live in this nation.

The men and women there and all over this country didn’t have to fight for us. But they did and they gave their lives so that we might live freely for the rest of our days. Tomorrow, take a moment to reflect and remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in the name of freedom for you and I.

Happy 70th Birthday, George Strait

It all began 70 years ago in southeastern Texas town of Poteet, Texas, when George Harvey Strait Sr., was born to John Byron Strait and Doris Couser Strait.

He didn’t listen to much country music at all growing up in Pearsall, Texas, which is southwest of San Antonio, and his parents divorced while he was still in school, and George and his older brother Buddy were raised by their father, a junior high math teacher.

During high school, Strait was left speechless by seemingly matchless beauty of Norma Voss, with whom he would elope shortly after graduation, before signing for a stint in the United States Army.

He discovered his love for country music while stationed on the islands of Hawaii in 1971 and broke into the country scene a decade later in 1981.
He wrote the song “Check Yes or No,” for his wife Norma. In the song he recalls the first time he laid eyes on her on the playground in third grade.

Over the course of his storied and highly-touted country music career, the Texas native has more than 60 number one hits. Those hits include “Amarillo By Morning,” “How Bout Them Cowgirls,” “The Fireman,” “Cowboys Like Us,” “The Cowboy Rides Away,” and “Write This Down”.
Happy 70th Birthday, George. We love you brother.

Cody Johnson is Saving Country Music

I think it’s pretty safe to say, that Cody Daniel Johnson of Huntsville, Texas, is the future of country music. Not only is he the future of the genre, but he’s the reason there is still hope for real country music. I’m not talking about the kind of “country” that uses hip-hop beats or electronic drums.

I’m talking about the blue-collar country music. The kind that Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash,Willie Nelson and so many others have sang about over the years.

I’m not talking about the kind where people claim to be “cowboys” that seems to be the trend these days, I’m talking about an ex-bull rider turned country musician. The kind that misses songs, not because his voice cracked, but because his cows got out on his Texas ranch, so he’s backstage telling his wife how to get them back. The kind of country where people lived the lives the sang about.

I’m not talking about the politics of country music that pushes people to feel a certain way, I’m talking about the kind of country music that still believes in God, Country, and Family. The kind that will stop at nothing to give the glory to God in front of 10 thousand people.

That’s the kind of country that Cody Johnson is. He’s pure, blue-collared, down-home country. He doesn’t pretend he’s perfect. I’m fact, he’ll stand onstage and tell you he’s the most imperfect Christian in the venue.

He’s seemingly the only hope that real country has. Get a good look folks, this man is one of a kind.

The Little Things in Life: Landon McGregor’s home run

Yesterday seemed like a normal day, little did I know several hours later, I would have the distinct honor and privilege of meeting and calling the home run for one of the most inspirational kids that I’ve ever met.

Meet Landon McGregor, Landon has Down syndrome and is the bat boy for Alex City Middle School’s baseball team. He has an infectious personality with a smile that will undoubtedly light up a room.

Prior to the first game of the doubleheader, our head coach came up to me and explained the situation to me. He told me to play it up, which I gladly agreed to do under the circumstances.

To lead off the doubleheader, Landon happily walked up to the plate bat in hand. It wasn’t long before Landon hit the ball and was rounding the bases with a huge smile on his face. His trip around the bases was ended with a slide at home plate and kids surrounding him congratulating him on his big hit.

Little did Landon know, his big moment taught me one important thing, the little things in life are really all that matters.

Congratulations, Landon!

An Open Letter to Freddie Freeman

Dear Freddie Freeman, for 15 years, 11 of those spent in the big leagues with the Atlanta Braves, you gave all of Braves Country more than we could ever repay you for.

You’ve been our shoulder to cry on during the down years, you’ve celebrated with us in the high years. Despite the ebbs and flows of the years in between your first year here in Atlanta and your last, you stuck it out.

You said you were blessed to be a part of organization, when in fact, we were blessed to have you and your amazing family at our side through the rollercoaster that you ride alongside us for 11 years of big league service, 15 counting your time in the minors.

Thank you for providing us with so many memories, from the home run hugs, to the last out of the 2021 World Series. You did it all.

To Chelsea, thank you for sacrificing so much time with your husband for the betterment of this organization. Freddie is a sensational man who has left an incredible impact on the lives of those of us who are fortunate enough to call ourselves Braves fans. He’s been with for a decade and a half and you have been right there with him.

To Charlie, Brandon, and Maximus Freeman, thank you for sharing your dad with us. Thank you, Charlie for the unconditional love that you’ve shown us the past few years. To Brandon and Maximus, your story impacted us all and brought us all to tears.

Freddie, again, my brother, thank you for sharing your family, your athletic ability, and your story with us all for 15 years. You my friend, are the epitome of what it means to be an Atlanta Brave.

Thanks for everything, until our paths cross again, so long my friend, I wish you and your family nothing but the best.

Five More Minutes: In Loving Memory of Jody Marie Sanford

We’ve all got that one friend, or even multiple friends, that we feel are immortal. The kind of friends that have been with us through all heartbreak and the joys of life. The highs, lows, and everything included in this rollercoaster ride called life.

I’ve got several friends of that variety, but the one that’s been with me the longest is now at the Right Hand of God.

In fact, eight years ago today, she was called to her eternal home by God. On February 2, 2014, the one that I still consider to be the sister that I never had took her last breath and began that Heavenly journey that she has been on for eight years.

I can only imagine what she has seen over the last eight years in Heaven. I was so blessed to have been able to share 16 years of my life, her entire life, with her.

Although the time we shared together was far too short, we shared a lifetime worth of memories that I’m forever grateful for. Happy memories, sad memories, and everything in between.

By now, you’re probably thinking we had a perfect friendship. But believe me, there were multiple times in those 16 years that we got on each other’s last nerve.

But we never left each other’s side. She got on my nerves some, but I know that I got on her nerves far more than she got on mine.

How do I know that I got on her nerves? Well, if you knew Jody, you know about that side-eyed straight-faced look she’d give. Every time she gave me that look I’d playfully say “What is it Jody? What’s wrong?”

All while continuing to do what got on her nerves, not because I enjoyed getting the side-eyed, straight-faced treatment, but because I knew that it would only be a matter of seconds before she busted out laughing saying “You’re so stupid. You know that gets on my last nerve.” To which I’d pause and say “Yeah, I know. You want me to do it again?” And she’d playfully say, “No, you idiot.”

I’m forever grateful for the lifetime worth of memories that the two of us shared. From the trips to Mardi Gras in Mobile, to spending the summers at the city baseball fields, and everything in between.

On February 2, 2014, I was in the back of the house on the computer at about 4:30 p.m., when mom came running into the room and headed for her closet.

I wondered what she was doing so I asked “What are you doing?” She replied hurriedly “It’s Jody!” I was so confused at this point.

What has she done now? Was it something great, was she in trouble? What was going on? I was completely lost as to what was happening. The next minute my brother comes into the room and takes my phone.

After about two hours, the house phone rings and it’s mom. I pick it up, completely unprepared for what was about to be said on the other end. “Hello?” I said expecting just a normal answer to what was occurring.

I could hear people crying on the other end. Mom replied “Jody’s gone.” I couldn’t believe what I had just heard. It had to be a prank right?? This just wasn’t possible. I slowly hung the phone up after mom said that she’d be home in a little while.

February 5, 2014 rolls around, the day of the visitation, or viewing as some people refer to it and by this time I had already accepted the role as pallbearer. A role that I wasn’t too sure about taking on, but I knew that she wouldn’t want it any other way.

After all, I’d been with her for her whole life, why not carry her one last time? I wasn’t sure about taking on this responsibility, but I would be doing it the next day at the funeral.

But now, it was time to face my worst nightmare. I entered Thelma Baptist Church, which is about a mile from my house, through the back side door, where I was met by her entire family.

I didn’t know if I had the strength to face what I was going to have to face whether I wanted or not, so her mom and dad escorted me to the sanctuary where the casket was located and her brother and sister walked behind me.

I entered the sanctuary and made a right turn. There it was. There she was. My best friend’s lifeless body laying in a casket. I broke down. I walked up to the casket, leaned down and whispered “You’re safe with me.”

I got there early and sat about mid-ways down the isle. Before long what seemed like a thousand people were showing up in droves to pay their final earthly respects to not only my best friend, but also my very first friend.

The next morning, the funeral was supposed to start at 9 a.m., so I got there around 8 a.m, went inside the sanctuary, sat right in front of the casket and prayed for the strength to get through the day. I can confidently say that I had never heard of an entire school shutting down for a funeral, that is until this one of course.

Afterwards, I looked up and point to the sky and was met with hundreds of hugs from mutual friends that the two of us share. During the funeral the preacher said “Sixteen years…too short some might say, but if it’s a life that was lived and loved, was it really too short?” Those words will always stick close to my heart

That girl loved life. She loved her family and friends, but most importantly, she loved God. She loved hard. You never left her company with the question of “Does Jody love me?” Because she was going to make sure you knew the answer to that question. But if you messed up, or she didn’t like what you did, or how you did it, she was going to give you an earful about it.

She also was a fighter. She fought for those she loved and in turn those of us whom she loved are left here to defend her name and to keep her memory alive.

She stood up for what and who she believed in and you never had to question her loyalty. It was evident as soon as you met her.

As the funeral ended, the funeral director asked the congregation to rise and prepared the casket to be carried out. I stood up, pulled my sunglasses down, even though it was a cloudy day, took a deep breath and grabbed the casket with my right arm.

Once we were out of the church, we loaded the casket into the back of the hearse and I leaned down saying in between tears “This isn’t the end.”

Afterwards I was met with more hugs and words of encouragement to get me through this rough time. At the graveside, I lifted my sunglasses and wiped my eyes with a tissue. Then I was met by more mutual friends that needed a shoulder to cry on, but little did they know, I needed that shoulder to cry on also.

Tell your family and friends you love them, you never know when you’ll see them for the last time. I’d give the world to be able to spend five more minutes with my best friend. Rest In Peace, angel. You are loved and missed more than you will ever know.

Happy eight years, angel. I love you and I’ll see you again one day soon. Until we pick up where we left off, do me a favor and give Heaven some hell.

“Here for the Long Haul,” Wetumpka Head Football Coach Looking Forward to Serving Community

For most people, it takes a while for them to know what they want to be when they grow up. For one high school head coach, it didn’t take long.

Bear Woods was announced as the Indians new head man a week ago. After spending time in both the National Football League (NFL) and Canadian Football League (CFL), Woods considers this opportunity a blessing saying “I can’t overstate just how awesome of an opportunity this is that my family and I are grateful for.”

Woods, a collegiate standout at Troy University, and most recently with the Canadian Football League’s Montreal Allouettes and Toronto Argonauts, says “it’s a blessing to be at home doing what I love, which is football and to have my wife and my four kids at my side on this journey.”

The Macclenny, Florida, native credits his playing days with putting him “on a journey being able to understand what these athletes are going through and it’s a journey that I wouldn’t trade for the world.”

As a young kid in small-town Florida, Woods dreamt of playing for Baker County High School, a rural Florida institution. “There wasn’t a college team or a professional team, all I wanted to do was play for my high school. On Friday nights, I looked forward to being able to carry my older brother or my older cousins’ equipment.”

Woods says “It’s that type of passion and pride that I want to be able to help cultivate and instill here with our community.”

Woods also says “Football is just a platform with which the Lord has blessed me to serve the place that I call home. This is what the Lord intends me to do and to be able to lead young athletes in all sports, both girls and boys, it’s just a great opportunity.”

The faith-grounded head coach says, “This program has no ceiling on where it can go and I’m anxious to serve here.”

Woods has considered the City of Natural Beauty home for a while. “Wetumpka was home before this job and it’s going to be home well after this job, we’re here for the long haul.”

Picture Courtesy: Bear Woods.

Hank Aaron: A Man Character, Integrity, Tenacity, and Fortitude

There are no words to adequately describe the man that was Henry Louis “Hank” Aaron. I don’t say that lightly. You see, it was nearly a year ago, that we lost a great man, a noble man, a man of the highest character, integrity, tenacity, and fortitude.

When Hank Aaron, a black man from Mobile, Alabama, passed away on January 22, 2021, we lost a man whom, so bravely stood face-to-face with social injustice in the Deep South in the 1950s and 60s.

We lost a legend, but Hank Aaron didn’t care about his statistics, his fame, or what people thought of his career, he was more concerned with seeing that people were treated with the same amount of respect. He was an advocate, a servant, a legend, and an icon in every sense of his being.

He was and is highly revered in the baseball world, just as he deserves to be. Now, I never had the distinct honor of talking to Mr. Aaron during his 86 years of life here on Earth, but from what I’ve read in articles and books, he never wanted to discuss his historic 23-year Major League Baseball career that saw him break Babe Ruth’s long-standing record of 714 home runs by sending a ball into the left-center field bullpen at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium at 9:07 p.m., eastern time on April 8, 1974.

He was more concerned with discussing how you were, discussing your needs, and wants. He never was self-centered at all. Hall of Fame third baseman, Chipper Jones once said “When Mr. Aaron walked into a room, the crowd got quiet, when he spoke, you listened. But when he made himself available for conversation, you approached him, shook his massive hand, and heeded any advice he offered.”

The baseball world definitely hasn’t been the same since Henry Louis “Hank” Aaron passed away just shy of a year ago because we’ve all felt the void that the absence of such a noble human has left in our hearts. I never got the chance to speak with Mr. Aaron here on Earth, but when my name is called one day to head to that big baseball stadium made of gold in Heaven, you can rest assured that I will approach Mr. Aaron and tell him just how much he means to not only me but to the baseball world in general.

Afterwards, if Mr. Aaron has any advice on how to hit 755 home runs, I will sit back and enjoy his company. Rest In Peace, Hammer. I l love you, brother.

Source (USA Today)

Oh When the Saints Go Marching in: Mardi Gras set to Return to Birthplace in 2022

2021 was definitely weird when it came to Mardi Gras parades. As parades were halted in the City of Mobile, Alabama and several other cities around the state and nation that celebrate America’s Biggest Party that is Mardi Gras.

But rest assured, Mardi Gras will return to its motherland officially on February 11, 2022, when the Conde Cavaliers roll down Mobile’s parade Route A at 6:30pm.

On February 12, 2022, at 2:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., the Bayport Parading Society, Mystic DJ Riders, and the Pharaohs, Conde Explorers will bring their party down Route A.

Some of the more notable parades take place on February 18th, and 19th. As the Order of the Inca strolls down Route A at 6:30 p.m. on the 18 while the famed Mobile Mystics, Mobile Mystical Revelers, and the Mobile Mystical Friends come down Route A in the Azalea City at 2 p.m. on the 19th.

On Sunday February 27, 2022, also known as Joe Cain Day 2022, Joe Cain’s Merry Widows will begin the procession of Old Slac down Route A and finally end the procession at Cain’s resting place in Mobile’s Church Street Graveyard.

Mardi Gras 2022 behinds officially, on January 29 and ends on Fat Tuesday, March 1.

Laissez Bon Temps Rouler, Mobile!

For His Glory: 24 Years of Defying Odds

In the beginning of my life, it wasn’t easy for me. In fact, things were a bit rocky for me. At six weeks old, I was diagnosed with mild cerebral palsy.

After that, it was discovered that I had developed gangrene and doctors and nurses in Birmingham, Alabama’s Children’s Hospital of Alabama, where I spent most of my infancy, gave me little to no chance of living outside of the four walls of that cold, dark hospital.

I was clinging to life at this point. Things weren’t looking great. In fact, they weren’t looking good at all. A short time after that, my small intestines ruptured and I had suffered a stroke and multiple surgeries.

The medical staff at the hospital had all but thrown in the towel on my life, when little did they know that I was just getting started. it’s so hard for me to believe that on Sunday, December 12, 2021, I will celebrate my 24th year of life on this Earth. It seems like just yesterday that I was in and out of hospitals almost every day having some sort of surgery.

I’ve also suffered from seizures in the past, but thankfully I have been seizure-free for more than eight years. 

I don’t share this story as a pity on me, nor do I share it for sympathy or attention. Simply put, I’m sharing my testimony to tell you that you never know what people are going through in their lives. Often times, they don’t talk about it because it’s too tender of a subject for some.

As for me, I’ll gladly open up and share my testimony with anybody at any time in any place because I hope my story leads people to have a greater relationship with God. If it weren’t for His Glory, I wouldn’t be here right now. But thankfully, He had greater plans for me.

People are often battling things that we know nothing about. Be kind and always live for His Glory.

God Bless,

Braxton Parmer.