WoodmenLife Salutes America’s Heroes

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By Toni Stauffer

On Tuesday, Sept. 11, the citizens of Ladonia gathered at the Volunteer Fire Department on Hwy 80 to remember the 2,996 lives lost in 2001. This year marks the 17th anniversary of 9/11, a devastating attack in New York by the terriorist organization al-Qaeda that also resulted in more than 6,000 people injured, and $10 billion in property and infrastructure damage with the destruction of the World Trade Center complex. Out of those killed, 412 were emergency workers and 343 of those were firefighters.

Local WoodmenLife representative Ricky Thornton, who is a fourth generation member of the insurance company, spearheaded the event.

“WoodmenLife is committed to the community. One of the things we do is give flags out to community service organizations. Another we do is we replace flags,” Thornton siad. “We saw their [LVFD] flag was worn, and we thought a good time for it to be replaced would be through the Honor and Remembrance Program of September 11. Other than the United States government, WoodmenLife distributes the most amount of flags in the country, by giving them to specific organizations, including churches. If you are driving down the street and you see a flag in front of somewhere like the mayor’s office, or city buildings, it’s probably one of our flags. In most of the churches, if you see flags on the stage, they are probably from WoodmenLife.”

WoodmenLife donated the flagpole at the fire station in 1986, but this is the first time an Honor and Remembrance Program has been held for 9/11 there.

“We do a lot for our community. We give scholarships to students, and we have benefits for children who become orphaned,” Thornton said. “We have a whole list of benefits for our members. One of the benefits we are especially proud of is our First Responders benefit. That’s a $25,000 benefit that doesn’t cost anything for a First Responder of any type, or a member of WoodmenLife.”

“It’s a sad occasion,” said Ladonia fire chief David Martin. “I’ve actually been to the New York Memorial. The feel around the memorial…it’s a solemn place, knowing what happened there. We appreciate all these folks coming out to recognize it.”

The welcome and introductions were performed by Betty Kirby, president of WoodmenLife Chapter 338; Rev. Rodney Mitchell from Auburn Heights Church gave the invocation, and Mickeal Hanson, retired firefighter and WoodmenLife member, spoke. The Russell County High School ROTC Honor Guard presented the flag and hoisted it to half-mast in honor of the fallen. Mark Blaxton from Hilton Terrace Baptist Church beautifully sang “The Star Spangled Banner.” Closing remarks were given by Thornton and Dr. George Martin, also a WoodmenLife member, closed the gathering with a prayer.

Afterwards, everyone gathered inside the station for refreshments and conversation.