Army Command Sgt. Maj. Jerry L. Wilson will forever be remembered as an American hero.
Because he was a war hero -- giving his life for his country during the Iraq War in 2003 -- he was selected as the first local man to be honored by city of Thomson officials and members of the Thomson Rotary Club.
A monument is now in the city's newest park -- Camellia Park -- which pays special tribute to the sacrifice that Sgt. Maj. Wilson made for his country.
The park, located beside the Thomson Fire Rescue Headquarters, was rededicated during special ceremonies at the Thomson Rotary Club on Jan. 6.
The cost of the monument was shared by members of the Thomson Rotary Club and the Thomson High School Class of 1976 -- the year that Sgt. Maj. Wilson graduated before enlisting in the Army.
The idea to develop a park there was a shared one between Robert "Bob" Knox Jr, a former mayor, and his wife, Dot, a local real estate agent and former first lady of Thomson.
"We wanted to highlight this area of Thomson and honor those who have meant so much to our community," Mrs. Knox said.
She was quick to point out that much of the credit for the original idea of the project belongs to Thomson Mayor Kenneth Usry and Doug Kier, the chief executive officer of McDuffie Regional Medical Center.
"They really worked hard to make this project a reality, too," added Mrs. Knox.
Several family members of Sgt. Maj. Wilson's attended the ceremony, including his mother, Daisy Wilson, one of his two sons, Capt. Sidney Wilson and his sister Susan Milton. His oldest son, Mantrell Wilson, who is a law enforcement officer with the Richmond County Board of Education in Augusta, was unable to attend. Other family members in attendance included Sgt. Maj. Wilson's first cousins Rhonda Crawford and her husband, Charlie, and JoAnn Wilson, all of Thomson.
"We waited a long time for this day," said Mrs. Wilson, whose son was 45 when he was killed. "At times I wondered if this day would ever come. I thought about it often. And now it's finally here. I am grateful to everyone who had a part in making this a reality. It gives me a closure on this part of his life. But he will always be in my heart."
Mrs. Milton, a retired schoolteacher, said the ceremony was special to her, too.
"It's very nice that Jerry was thought of this way by our community," said Mrs. Milton. "It means a lot to our family that everybody thought so much of him. He was devoted to God, his church, family and his community. He also had a great love for his country."
Command Sgt. Maj. Wilson and another soldier, Spc. Rel A. Ravago IV, 21, of Glendale, Calif., were killed on Nov. 23, 2003, when their armored vehicle was attacked in Mosul.
Sgt. Maj. Wilson, who was assigned to the 502nd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade 101st Division (Air Assault) at Fort Campbell, Ky., has a son now following in his father's footsteps. Capt. Sidney Wilson is stationed at Fort Gordon.
"This ceremony really meant a lot to me and my family," said Capt. Wilson during an interview. "It's something I'll never forget."
Prior to the ceremony and Rotary Club President Don Powers' greetings to members and special guests, Capt. Wilson spent a little time talking with well-known retired Gen. Dwayne Patrick, who makes his home in Thomson.
"His father was an outstanding soldier," recalled Patrick.
"He was a man of honor and it's only fitting we honor him for the sacrifice he made with his life in a war."