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There were more than 100 vehicles in our convoy, which was really one large funeral procession for a fallen American fighter pilot. We were headed from Dover Air Force Base, Delaware to Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia — more than 100 miles and two hours away — and we would make it in nearly half that time.
MIRACLE 100 MILES
Although there were dozens of police cruisers and motorcycles ahead of our military convoy, the hearse transporting the remains of Maj. Troy Gilbert was the focus of our procession. Two helicopters even followed from above. Seemingly, everyone was there to honor Gilbert one last time and to finally bury his remains after taking a decade to retrieve all of him. The major had been on an extremely long journey to a final resting place long before we’d set out on our multi-state, 100-mile drive late in the fall of 2016.
I was in one of the military transport vehicles driving behind the hearse, and my mind still marveled at the sight of all the students standing outside of schools that were along the route to the highway from Dover — with each small American flag in small hands, Gilbert was being honored one last time and I couldn’t stop wondering how they all knew.
Upon learning that I would serve my six-month deployment at the military’s sole mortuary command in the United States, I couldn’t help but feel like I was not only deploying far behind friendly lines, but that I would be doing peculiar work in an environment in which every day I would be surrounded by American losses. I secretly felt like I was being assigned to the losing team. I now am deeply ashamed of that notion.
A movie on the life of Civil Rights Activist Fannie Lou Hamer will soon make its way to the silver screen to tell the story of the often overlooked and unheralded “spirit of the Civil Rights Movement.” This biopic tells the dynamic story of a woman who against all odds overcame the poverty of the Jim Crow South in Mississippi, near fatal beatings by law enforcement, repeated threats on her life, and the trauma of forced sterilization to become a leader in politics, civil rights, women’s rights, and community organizing and activism.
The film is being produced by Larry Meli, CEO of Dream Management, Jon Levin of Beverly Hills-based ROAR (Formerly of CAA) and Author Jay Speights of Rosemary Isle, who have optioned the rights to Hamer’s story from her estate and the definitive biography on her by Chana K. Lee, For Freedom’s Sake.
“With voting rights under attack, Hamer’s story is both timely and crucial as we continue this national debate. As we commemorate what would have been her centennial year, it is only fitting that we reintroduce her amazing story into the American lexicon to serve as a call to action for a new generation of activists,” said team member Jay Speights.
I was five or six and recall being in a laundromat, but mom believes it was at a grocery store. The alleged transgression is forgotten by us both, but each remembers her towering over me index finger wagging demanding, “Who do you think you are?” I replied, “John Jioni Palmer.”
Four decades later I am still that boy, but also much more. I am a son, husband, father and eldest grandchild; storyteller, chef, leader and coach—to name a few. Each day I breathe, I endeavor to be my best at who I am, while also nurturing the desire to explore and develop new ways of being and doing.