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A special welcome home

Last week on a hunch, I went into to Home Hardware here in Brookhaven to pay my respects to a former manager.

Upon my return from Afghanistan as a civilian chaplain, I had set out to assemble and place a war memorial in honor of the sacrifices of “America’s Best” — its military. I did not want to soon forget what I had just experienced by being with them nearly four years in two war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan.1009soldiers-memorial-in-yard

I was able to locate just what I wanted by a merchant who sold concrete creations between where I live near Tylertown and Brookhaven. About halfway between, on Hwy. 583, Mr. Lawrence helped me gather up from his stock some official insignia of all five branches of the armed forces.

Looking like small grave markers along with a full scale replica of a machine gun standing up in a pair of Army boots and a helmet on top, all I needed was some paint to make it all complete.

After Mr. Lawrence loaded me up with my purchases in the back of my pickup, I headed on to Brookhaven to try and find just the right color of paint to make my dream a reality.

I pulled into Home Hardware on the side street of Brookhaven Street and went inside to look for the paint and was approached by the manager, Mark Whittington.

With home offices located in Natchez and some 90 stores statewide, this one stands out above all the rest to me.

The one being featured in my column today came into being some 12 years ago.

I introduced myself to Mark and briefly told him where I had been and what I wanted to do with my newfound treasures.

I took him outside to show him the concrete creations and then we went to try and find just the right colors that would make it all come alive from his shelves.

He took special interest in my project and together we located just the right colors.

As I began to gather it all up and head to the checkout counter, he said, “Rev. Dykes, there will be no charges for these cans of paint. We here at Home Hardware want to thank you for going over there to help our soldiers. Take this as our ‘welcome home’ gift to you.”

The rest of the staff gathered around as I went out to my truck to get a copy of the two books I had published while at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul to show them titled “Soldiers’ Angel On Watch,” — Volumes 1 and 2 — and at their insistence, placed some for sale at their register.

Now, located out under the old Magnolia tree in my front yard, sits my war memorial in full color for all the world to see. Off to the side is a replica of an old log bench, also made of concrete, where one can sit to think about all our brave heroes who paid the ultimate price with their lives on foreign soil and also in full color thanks to Home Hardware and Mark Whittington.

It is hard this morning typing through tears as I reflect on this gracious gift that made my return most sweet back in March 2014.

Mark has moved on now from what I was told but what he did that day will forever be with me.

After all that is so wrong in present times in our country, there are still nice people around that have a special way of showing it.

No, it did not make the evening news that day or make the paper then, but today it is making this one.

If God notices the sparrow that falls to the earth to visit its funeral, or a widow woman placing all she has of two mites in the offering pan at church, I know He took note of the day a hardware store manager who paid me a really nice compliment with a buggy full of paint. It was a real ‘welcome home’ from Home Hardware of Brookhaven.

God bless you and God bless America.

Mike Dykes is a pastor and story teller. He can be reached at angelsmannow@yahoo.com.