Recently promoted Army colonel thanks Martin and Weakley County
Posted: Wednesday, November 21, 2012 5:00 pm
By COL. JACK USREY
Special to the Press
By the time you read this, Martin, I will have been promoted to the rank of colonel in the US Army. As the day of my promotion grew near, I reflected on my 20-plus year career in the Army and what got me here.
It dawned on me that I get about 1 percent of the credit for any success I’ve had. The rest goes to God, my parents, the town that helped “raise” me, my wife and children. Each seemed to enter my life at just the right point. Hence my letter to thank Martin for all that you did for one of your sons.
I was blessed to be born into a Christian family with parents that created a safe and healthy environment in which to grow. And while it would take pages to thank them for all they did, suffice it to say it boiled down to love God, work hard and never quit. There are so many others that made an impact and I could never mention them all – but some need singling out. Mrs. Thompson, my first grade teacher, taught me to love reading. To this day I am always reading one or more books at the same time. Another Mrs. Thompson, one of my sixth grade teachers, was always encouraging us.
I challenge each of you to find someone each day to encourage. If I remember her words of encouragement 36 years later, I’d offer that planting those seeds matter. You never know – that might be exactly the moment someone needs it the most.
Mrs. White, a teacher and vice principal in high school, was such an amazing woman, and she touched so many of our lives as we passed through the halls of Westview. I’ve thought of her often over the years. Then there are my dear friends who spent hours exploring Cane Creek with me and hanging out at the Duncan’s and Morgan’s houses and cruising around town.
The army life removed me from their lives, but I’ve found great comfort in those memories over the years when I was in places like Haiti, Honduras, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan – those times when you need something good to offset the unpleasant things. Hans, Greg, Dennis, David, Amanda and Buffy – thank you for making things better when you didn’t even know you were doing it. Jumping the hills on the back roads in my brother’s car, visiting Westview at night with some friends to rearrange teachers’ desks – certainly not the smartest things to do, but we never damaged things or hurt folks.
Some of my fellow culprits went on to do great things for our community, like becoming police chiefs and community leaders (smile). Looking back it is clear that the entire town of Martin “raised” many of us rambunctious youngsters, allowing us to occasionally stumble and forgiving our mistakes. I can see so many faces and instances where so many of you pardoned our (my) transgressions, showed mercy and patience, allowed us (me) to learn from our wrongs and to become a better person.
The Weakly County Municipal Electric System, where I cut my teeth on the right-of-way crew, working with an all-star team that gave me a kitbag full of life lessons that helped me become a better man and soldier. Harold Bynum, my foreman, had high and exacting standards in everything we did, even down to how we sharpened the chainsaw blades. Harold, Jim, Barry and Alvin – they taught me teamwork and prepared me to excel in a future called the Army – they didn’t even know they were doing it.
Jim Reynolds, a man I looked to as a mentor. He took me on my first deer hunt and was with me when I harvested my first buck. Almost 20 years later to the day, while I was deployed to Operation Iraqi Freedom, Jim took my oldest son on his first deer hunt and was there with him when he harvested his first buck. You can’t buy a memory that special. Men like Junior Moore, who encouraged me to go to college when I asked for his advice. I’m convinced that I would not have left the electric company after four years to go to college had it not been for him.
Joe Cross and his family from Dresden – I grew to love and respect them from my time at the electric company and during college. I looked up to Joe and his skills as a lineman – I also respected him for how much he loved his family. I remember sitting in class one night at UTM and his son Joseph came to the door and asked to see me. He had a deer down and needed help tracking it in the dark – that’s the Martin I remember. Driving my 1965 Mustang a little too fast between Greenfield and Dresden and getting a speeding ticket, walking up the stairs of the courthouse in Dresden to pay the fine and running into a man I worked for from the electric company. He learned of my indiscretion, took my ticket and told me to wait there. A few minutes later he returned and told me to get back to work. I remember hauling hay with Mike and Bill, loading those tracker trailers with hay in Dresden so the man we worked for could sell it in Kentucky. Honest hard work with people I enjoyed being with – it doesn’t get better than that.
I remember sitting in class at UTM in 1987, my first semester of college. I looked out the window and saw a girl walking down the sidewalk. She was the prettiest thing I’d seen in my life. I walked out of class so I could meet her – I was afraid I’d never see her again. We’ve been together ever since and are living in our 12th home in 20 years, going wherever the Army sends us.
She’s blessed me with three children and loves me unconditionally. She’s the strongest, most amazing woman I’ve ever known and she makes me better than I am.
I would never have met her without men like Junior Moore and Guy Hannings telling me that going to college was the right thing to do.
There are so many more but I must close. Just remember that each one of you influences someone every single day – I am who I am because of what hundreds of you did for me. You may be the only person at a given moment that can be a positive influence on someone that really needs it. Don’t walk past that opportunity.
Remember – you may not see the seeds you plant grow but so many of them will at just the right time – just plant them and leave the rest to God. Published in The WCP 11.20.12