The events of the last several weeks in our community reinforce, for me, what a unique, special place we have here in Thomson and McDuffie County.
During the fall we followed our faithful ritual of watching and encouraging our local high school football teams as they went about another season of competition. As usual, they were very successful, but what marked the Briarwood and Thomson High teams as unusual this year was that their successes were played out against a backdrop of unprecedented obstacles, injuries, and even a teammate's death. These young men learned how to overcome adversity, play together as a team and grow as individuals. The community backed and encouraged them, and helped inspire their efforts.
Around the same time football season was wrapping up, we helped complete the GI Joe dream of a young, local cancer patient, Ethan Hobbs, as the Make-a-Wish Foundation brought him back to town after a week at Fort Gordon, Fort Benning and Fort Stewart. The community response was unbelievable in Ethan's parade through town and return to Thomson Elementary. The yellow ribbons, people waving and fellow student response was very special for the Hobbs family.
Then, Thanksgiving week we learned the horror of the brutal death of one of our own, Command Sgt. Maj. Jerry L. Wilson, in Iraq. This Thomson High, Springfield Baptist Church product, a member of a respected and loved local family, paid the ultimate sacrifice in serving our country. Again, the outpouring of community love and support for Command Sgt. Maj. Wilson and his family permeated this place as we grieved with the family and honored the man who will forever be our hero - a model of strength and compassion for us to all emulate. We are all encouraged to continue to support his family, to contribute to the local fund to build a permanent memorial to this good man, and to perpetuate his memory and achievement.
Finally, last weekend, we joined together as a community, under the lead of our Chamber of Commerce, to begin the Christmas season with our tree lightings, first Festival off Main Street and Christmas parade. The young people from our local schools singing carols and then lining up to see Santa; hot chocolate and cider warming us on a cold night; runners gathering for a cool, early morning run/walk; booths of local artists selling their wares; a renovated "Box Factory" building serving as an antique mall; enthusiastic crowds participating in the Christmas parade -- these and other snapshots of a very special weekend helped us focus on the blessed Christmas season and our ability to observe it in our unique community. The whole weekend was planned and carried out by volunteers, and the Festival is the first of what will be many more even bigger and better, bringing newcomers to Thomson and helping us all get into the holiday spirit.
These last few special weeks have been sobering yet celebratory. Their defining constant, though, is the unequaled spirit, heart, caring and cooperation of our people and community. I've never been more proud to call Thomson my home, nor more compelled to serve it however I can.