A crew of workers from Brookhaven Monument Company spent Friday afternoon on the courthouse lawn in Hazlehurst, working to preserve the memory of one of Copiah County’s fallen heroes. Dave Pace, owner of the business, Jimmy Smith, the company’s sandblaster and his grandson Cody Beeson, and staff member Amber Arender added the name of Joe Nathan Wilson under the heading of ‘Iraq’ to the monument’s north side.
Army Staff Sgt. Wilson, a native of Crystal Springs, died on November 2, 2003 from injuries sustained in a helicopter crash near the center of Iraq. Wilson and many of his fellow soldiers were on leave heading home when the Chinook helicopter they were riding in was hit by enemy fire. The resulting explosion and crash killed a total of sixteen American soldiers and wounded 20 others. Wilson died of his injuries at an Army field hospital some time later, but he managed to save the life of one of his friends during the crash.
Wilson, who was 30 at the time of his death, is the first soldier added to the memorial monument since it was constructed over two decades ago, Pace said. The names of soldiers from Copiah County who were killed in WWI, WWII, Korea and Vietnam are the original ones etched into the granite.
“We are honored and humbled to do this,” Pace said.
His company has also added names from the Iraq and Afghanistan theaters in Magnolia and Liberty. Pace added that he does not charge to add the names of the fallen combat soldiers.
“They have paid the highest price for this already,” he explained.