Members of the Memphis District gathered for a memorial yesterday morning at the Clifford-Davis Odell Horton Federal Building to honor and remember seven teammates, who to many of us were family, that we unfortunately lost over the last year.
An additional ceremony was held later in the day at the Ensley Engineer Yard to dedicate a newly planted tree to those seven fallen teammates. The tree was planted to replace the first commemorative tree, dedicated to all deceased U.S. Army Corps of Engineers members who had served proudly. That tree had 'lived it's given life' and was unfortunately uprooted during a strong storm in years past.
Appropriately, this new sturdy tree will take its place, and is dedicated to these individuals that had withstood their own personal storms throughout life. They now have an extended resting place at Ensley Engineer Yard, where many will pay their respects on a daily basis, as each persons' service is worth that and so much more.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Chaplain (Col.) Bradford Baumann traveled to Memphis to help memorialize the death of each Memphis District teammate, as this district was hit the hardest out of all USACE districts regarding lives lost.
Those lost are Michael “Scott” Barton, Randle R. Fell, Gary W. Hamlett, Shirley Lewis, Ken Manker, Billy Manley, and Tom Minyard.
Barton was a valued team member for 30 years who rose all the way to Chief Engineer on the Dredge Hurley. Barton played a major role in keeping the Mississippi River channel open for commerce, allowing roughly 500 million tons of products and commodities worth $200 billion annually ship throughout global and domestic markets.
Fell served as a Deckhand Leaderman on the Motor Vessel Mississippi. Fell had the distinction of being one of few employees who served on both the M/V Mississippi IV and the current Mississippi. Fell joined the Memphis District in 1978 as a revetment worker and faithfully served here until his passing.
Hamlett worked as a Construction Control Representative in the Wynne Area Office, retiring in January of this year after more than 44 years of dedicated Federal Service. Since then he has worked on construction of the Grand Prairie Pumping Stations as a rehired annuitant. A Vietnam-era veteran, Gary served in the U.S. Army, 82nd Airborne Division, 321st Field Artillery from 1971-1973.
Lewis joined the Memphis District in 2010 when she was hired as the Administrative Specialist for Construction. In 2015, she was hired for a similar position in Contracting. Prior to joining the Memphis District, she had five years of Federal Service with Veterans Affairs. Lewis’ co-workers and friends remember her as a person with a great sense of humor, possessing a zest for life like none other.
Manker worked as a Tool and Parts Attendant in the Metals Unit since 2013. He was initially hired by the St. Louis District in 2006 as a Food Service Worker on the Dredge Potter and also worked as a Deckhand on that very same dredge. Manker will be remembered for his warm personality and dedication he brought to his work.
Manley served as the Chief of Yards and Docks at Ensley Engineer Yard since 2015. Manley was a 27-year retired U.S. Army Sergeant First Class. All of those who knew Manley appreciated how personable and friendly he was. He left an indelible mark on his friends and co-workers.
Minyard served 31 years of Federal Service. He was the Chief of the Engineering and Construction Division from 2007 until his retirement in 2014. Since 2016, Minyard served as a rehired annuitant in the District’s Groundwater Security Project Office in Carlisle, Arkansas until his passing. Throughout his career, Minyard served in several districts and positions. Everywhere he went, he left a legacy of excellence.
All seven have been and will be dearly missed. The District Commander, Corps Chaplain, Physical Support Branch Chief Lawrence “LT” Thomas, and Operations Division Chief Russell Davis III spoke words of solace and encouragement during this time where we are all experiencing a rollercoaster ride of emotions.
“We thank them for the healing and comforting gifts they left behind, which are memories of the things they said, how they laughed, and the bits of wisdom they shared. Let us accept their gifts as comforting reminders of the joy it was to know them, to be in their presence, and to serve with them,” Col. Miller said.
“I know there are no words that can make our loss and sorrow less painful. But we can begin the healing process by taking their gifts with us as we carry on the work they so faithfully dedicated themselves to. In this way, they are forever members of this great team and will continue to share in all our future accomplishments. We gather to honor their lives, service, and memory,” Memphis District Commander Col. Miller ended.
Just as the commander said, there are no words. We live and work in their honor. We remember what they did for our nation. Every time we walk past the tree dedicated in their honor, again, we remember and honor them in everything we do.
We are grateful to have known them, glad to have worked alongside them, and are at ease knowing that they are now at peace.