LEAKESVILLE, Miss. (WKRG) — Leakesville residents are being honored along Main Street on July 4th. Banners with the faces of military members line Main Street, honored or remembered by their friends and families.
The banners are made by Military Tribute Banners, a company made up of mostly veterans who create banners and prints honoring people associated with the armed forces. Michael Martin, the founder, explains why he started Military Tribute Banners.
“We started basically from a concept, developing this as a program to help communities honor and also raise funds for a lot of community works or projects that they have,” said Military Tribute Banners founder Michael Martin.
Any profits from the sponsors of the banners go towards improvements to Green Park, organized by the Main Street Leakesville Organization and the Town of Leakesville. Plans include a path around the park to make it wheelchair accessible, lighting and additional outlets for events and vendors.
At the beginning of the campaign this summer, 72 spaces were available. The banners will stay up through Veterans Day.
Greene County is home to 763 veterans. The banners recognize them, and others who didn’t return home, like Army Corporal Justin Mixon, who died in Baghdad, Iraq while driving a Stryker armored vehicle struck by an explosive (IED.)
Walter and Melinda Mixon found out the morning of Sunday, June 1, 2008, their son had died. Soon after, their home was full of members of the Louisiana church they pastored, grieving together.
“It just became a flurry of activities after that. But everything was like it was in slow motion- just a daze,” said Walter Mixon.
“Kind of waiting for information. What happened? How did it happen? When did it happen? Where was he at when it happened? Those types of things. We was trying to get answers to questions and we had plenty of questions but no answers.”
Answers would start coming that evening and the days that followed, but none brought total closure and healing.
“There are those who say that time heals all wounds. That’s not true. Time has no healing value. I’ve likened losing a child or any loved one to a debilitating wound,” said Mixon.
“You walk and act differently. You may have a limp or live in pain. When the wound is bumped, it begins to hurt just like when it was received. It’s bumped by birthdays, holidays, bad days, any number of things and the wound never truly goes away.”
Their family was only able to carry on by their deep faith and comfort and peace they found in believing that their wounds would be healed after they passed and are reunited with their loved ones.
In the years since, Walter has written a book, “Walking Through the Valley,” detailing his experience since Justin’s death. Justin’s banner- a reminder of loss, but also of pride the Mixons felt when he enlisted and hundreds of cars lined the shutdown highway for his funeral, was donated at no charge by the company.
“And so we recognize obviously, there are family members that are grieving, struggling, and we just did not feel right for us to charge. They’ve paid enough,” said Martin.
While both men once celebrated Independence Day with a barbecue and fireworks, they now recognize a greater significance behind the holiday in remembering how independence was obtained.