Home for Christmas
By Carol McLeod
At least one Jefferson County resident got her most cherished wish for Christmas; her son is home for the holiday.
Donald C. “Chris” Hadden, a senior airman, E-4, with the U.S. Air Force, has missed Christmas at home for the past six years. This year, not only is Hadden, his wife, Dawn, and their two children home with friends and family, but Hadden brought with him something special for the people he had left here, three American flags that flew in combat missions. He bought the flags at the base where he was stationed in the Middle East, handed them to different pilots and had them flown in the crew compartment.
On Monday, Dec. 17, Hadden made a presentation of one of those flags to Thomas Jefferson Academy. Although he graduated from Jefferson
County High School in 1999, he did attend TJA for a time and it was the students of TJA who sent him several care packages, packages that reminded him that he was in the hearts and thoughts of those back home.
“While I was still deployed to the Middle East, TJ and First Baptist Church in Louisville (his wife’s home church) and Pleasant Grove Baptist Church in Avera (his home church) sent us a bunch of care packages with all kinds of things that we were unable to get there, some sweets, shampoo, things like that. Those are the kinds of things that helped our morale,” Hadden said. “All the kids would make cards, like Christmas cards, that said things like, ‘Come home safe,’ ‘Thank you for what you do,’ and “God bless you,’ ‘God bless the troops.’”
The flags each come with a certificate stating in which plane they flew, by tail number, he said. “It says that it was flown in a combat sortie and explains there were lethal munitions expanded during the mission,” he said.
“I wanted to do something to show my appreciation and I had only time to do three flags. I did one for the city of Avera, TJA and my parents. Lamar Kitchens, he passed while I was deployed this year. He lived behind us and he has a son, Gary Kitchens, my age and I would always go over there to play and he (Lamar) would put us to work. He was the fire chief in Avera and he helped me go through my firefighter training so I could be a volunteer for the Avera Fire Department. He had a positive influence on my life,” Hadden said. The flag will be presented to the city and displayed at the fire department.
Like many people, the day that changed things for Hadden was Sept. 11, 2001. He said it was only a few days later that he decided to join the military.
“That was my big push into going into the military,” he said. “I never really thought about it before.”
To help him stay connected with To help him stay connected with his wife and children, his 4-year-old daughter Ashton and his son Hunter who is 2, his wife Dawn makes videos of special occasions and sends them to him while he’s deployed.
“I actually was able to see birthdays that I missed,” Hadden said. “She’s real supportive. What I’ll do is get an anniversary gift ahead of time and hide it.” Then, on the special day, he calls and tells her where the gift is. He said other people might celebrate ahead of a deployment or wait until they get back. One man’s family waited until February to have Christmas, he said, adding that it was probably difficult for the kids to wait that long.
“You do whatever you have to do,” he said.
Hadden, 26, who is originally from Avera, is currently stationed at Ellsworth Air Force Base near Rapid City, S.D., where he’s been since May, 2005. His wife is from Louisville and is in school full time studying criminal justice.
They have been married since 2002 and were high school sweethearts.
Hadden is in aircraft structural maintenance and credits his father-in-law, Mike Crawford, with getting him ready for military life. Crawford, a retired Air Force veteran, had been deployed many times himself, Hadden said, adding, “He helped me prepare for the military and I just really appreciate it.”
Crawford even gave some of his military gear to Hadden. “He was my preparation,” Hadden said.
Leisa Hadden said she has mixed emotions about her son. She’s proud of him and sad, she said. But very glad he’s home for Christmas.
“First time in six years,” she said.
She admits she worries about him all the time.
“The only way I can make it is to know I raised him the best way I could. And to know that he’s safe, spiritually wise, that I done the best that I could. Knowing that he’s saved and he’s going to heaven. As a mother, you couldn’t ask for anything better.”
Mrs. Hadden said her son told her he would try to come home for the holiday.
“He never once let me know for a fact,” she said. “And then he finally let me know that he was coming home for Christmas but he wouldn’t let me know when he was coming.”
Mrs. Hadden said she reminded her son that his sister, Emily, 17, might be at a game for the school and she would be there, too.
When he did call, she was at Siloam at a ball game, she said. He asked if she was home and he said he was still a little ways out. When he called later, after the game, it was to ask a favor.
“He wouldn’t have told me when he was coming home except for the storm. He called me and said I need you to move a car out of the garage so I can get the kids out. And I did that. And they pulled in the driveway.”
Mrs. Hadden said of the six years he’s been in the military she has probably seen him a total of only three months. She said she’s proud of him for wanting to stand up for his country.
She asked Hadden why he wanted to give one of his flags to TJA and he told her, “They’ve been my family and my support that keeps me going on.”
Mrs. Hadden is a mail carrier in Stapleton. She said the people on her route have supported her by doing things like given her magazines to send him. Once, a gentleman gave her some peanuts. She sent them to Hadden and he took them to work to share.
He’s been in South Dakota for two years and in Alaska for four before that, she said.
“As a mother do I want him to reenlist? No. But I want him to do what’s right for him,” she said.
Hadden said right now is very hectic because everybody wants to see the children.
“The big thing was letting the children come home,” he said, “the grandparents seeing the children at Christmas for the first time.”
When his leave is over, he’ll be going back to South Dakota, knowing he’s also going to go back to the Middle East. But right now, he’s home.
How local elected officials are paid, part II
By Carol McLeod
This week, The News and Farmer/The Jefferson Reporter continues its look at salaries for elected officials in our area.
In Jefferson County, the clerk of court, Mickey Jones, began working for the county in January of 1977. Jones currently earns an annual salary of $80,643. His total benefit package, which includes insurance, is $86,903.06 a year.
The probate judge, Q.L. Bryant, has been in office since July of 1982 and currently earns $69,856 annually. His total benefit package is $76,073.76.
The county’s tax commissioner,
Jenny Gordy, who began this position in January of 1993, currently earns $59,879 a year, with a total benefit package of $73,709.32.
The county’s sheriff, Gary Hutchins, who has been serving since January of 1983, currently earns an annual salary of $68,347. His total benefit package is $74,607.06 a year.
Murray Bowman, who has served as a magistrate judge since December of 1984, currently makes $59,507 a year, with a total benefit package of $73,294.70. He is the only elected magistrate in the county. The others are appointed.
Edward James, the county’s coroner since January of 2005, currently makes $2,719. His total benefit package is $9,187.07.
John Murphy, a state court judge since January of 1997, earns an annual salary of $35,000. He does not receive additional benefits from the county.
Mickey Moses, a solicitor for the county since January of 1997, does not receive additional benefits from the county other than an annual salary of $33,000.
Currently, the judges for Superior Court are paid a salary by the state. The county pays a salary supplement of $8,640 annually to each.
Information for the county’s portion of the District Attorney’s salary was unavailable at press time.
Wadley hires three new police officers
By Carol McLeod
Wadley City Council approved three new hires for the city’s police department during a regular meeting held Monday, Dec. 10.
Police Chief Paul Jordan told the council he had an application from Larry Frank Young to be a full time police officer.
Jordan said Young had served in the military as an MP and is originally from Bartow.
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Young is scheduled to start required police training, which lasts 10 weeks, in January, according to Jordan. Councilman Randall Jones asked how many full time and how many part time officers are currently working for the police department. Jordan said, including a new hire from last month, there are five full time officers and three who are part time.
“We really need three more full time,” Jordan said, adding no more part time help would be needed. The council approved Young’s hiring but he will not go on the road until he has completed his training, Jordan said. Young is still in the Army reserves.
Additionally, Jordan asked the council to approve two part time officers being hired, Richard Knolls and Arthur Bryant.
Councilman Jones said, “I’m not going to support either one. Just my personal opinion. I’m not going to oppose if the mayor and council want to hire them.” Jones would not state specifics about his objections and abstained from voting on this issue.
Jordan said, “The only thing I’m looking for as far as the part time is short term to get through the holidays.”
Councilman Albert Samples said, “Chief knows the men, he’s worked with them. He knows if he can work with them or whatever.” He made a motion that the men be hired. When the motion was seconded, Councilwoman Beth Moore asked Jordan if he was comfortable with the two officers being out on the road.
“Definitely,” Jordan said. “It’s not a personal issue with me. Whatever information Mr. Jones has, he got on his own. I’ve worked with these men and when they worked under me, they did their job.”
The council passed the motion to hire Knolls and Bryant as part time officers.
In other news, Wadley Fire Department Chief Bruce Logue told council lights over the trucks in the fire station do not work properly.
Additionally, he said the gas heaters there come on but won’t go off. Logue said he thought that problem may be because of a faulty thermostat.
“We’ll take care of it,” Mayor Herman Baker said.
Council also discussed a request that the city library be open for longer hours during the week, open during lunch and open on Saturdays.
City Clerk Sallie Adams said the cost for the extended hours will be an additional $7,520 over the course of a year.
Councilman Jones recommended the item be tabled until the budget is complete. The motion carried.
Council discussed an ordinance requiring residents to post their physical addresses on their property. The purpose is to assist emergency workers in locating addresses during an emergency.
The ordinance has been in place for several years but has not been enforced.