PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

August 2, 2013

A community remembers

Hundreds turn out to mourn fallen PA soldier

Erinn Callahan
The Port Arthur News

NEDERLAND — It was early. It was muggy. It was already 80 degrees.

None of that mattered to Jordan Keffer. By 8:30 a.m. Friday morning, the Nederland resident was standing in front of Bulldog Stadium, sporting a black “Mad Dog” T-shirt and holding up a handmade sign.

“Maddox would have done it for us,” said Keffer, 22.

“Maddox” and “Mad Dog” were the names that Sgt. Anthony R. Maddox was most likely to respond to, Keffer said.

“If you said, ‘Anthony,’ nobody would know who you were talking about,” she said.

The 22-year-old Port Arthur soldier died July 22 in Landstuhl, Germany, from injuries sustained in a non-combat incident in Anwar, Afghanistan. His body was returned to Jack Brooks Airport on Friday morning.

Maddox moved to Port Arthur from his home in Louisiana in 2005, after Hurricane Katrina devastated the state. He was a 2009 graduate of Nederland High School, where he met Keffer and Audrey Miller during his sophomore year. Keffer and Miller were part of a group of friends that attended prom with Maddox their senior year.

“He was just an all-around nice person,” said Miller, 22. She and Keffer recalled Maddox’s cologne and propensity for breath mints — both of which made for a scent that was very appealing to the senses — and his smile, which, Keffer said, “lit up a room.”

Keffer wiped away tears as the hearse carrying Maddox’s body passed in front of the stadium where he spent many a Friday night playing football for the Nederland Bulldogs. But she took solace in the fact that her friend died doing exactly what he wanted to do.

“He couldn’t think of anything else he would rather do than something that meant something,” Keffer said.

Not everyone who turned out for Maddox’s procession knew him personally. David and Vicki Russell never met Maddox, but as the parents of a son who returned from Afghanistan a year ago, the Port Arthur couple knows the fear that accompanies having a child in the military.

“If something had happened to him, I sure hope people would have come out like this,” Vicki Russell said.

“He’s very much due the respect,” David Russell added.

Respect is something that Buddy Leonard didn’t find when he returned from Vietnam in 1967. The Nederland resident was overjoyed to see the community’s response to Maddox’s death and return home.

“To see the outpouring here — that’s really moving,” said Leonard, who was discharged as a Corporal E4 from the United States Marine Corp. “What we had was demonstrations and signs saying, ‘Baby killer.’ They’d spit on you.”

In sharp contrast to the hostile treatment that greeted Leonard upon his return home, silence descended upon 21st Street as the procession passed. Onlookers waved American flags for the young man who, even after only a short time, became a member of their community.

“He made the ultimate sacrifice, and he will not be forgotten,” said Sherry Leonard, Buddy Leonard’s wife. “Not by Nederland.”

Email: ecallahan@panews.com

Twitter: @ErinnPA