Fallen Army Sgt. Tanner Higgins, the 2007 Sulphur Springs High School graduate killed April 14 in Afghanistan, will be buried Tuesday, April 24, in Cypress Cemetery in Winnsboro.
A funeral service, with full military honors befitting the Army Ranger’s ultimate sacrifice, will be held at 2 p.m. Tuesday at Lake Fork Baptist Church in Alba. No formal visitation will be held for Sgt. Higgins.
Sgt. Higgins’ body is expected to arrive in Greenville at 11 a.m. Monday. The procession will depart from Majors Field in Greenville, led by Patriot Guard riders, head east on Interstate 30 to Sulphur Springs, then detour to Yantis before turning onto FM 515 to Winnsboro to take his remains to Beaty Funeral Home.
The route may take a detour through Sulphur Springs. Sulphur Springs Police Chief Jim Bayuk said he expects the procession to head north on Hillcrest Drive (State Highway 19) when it reaches Sulphur Springs, then turn on Houston Street and go past Sulphur Springs High School and Gerald Prim Stadium, where Higgins played football for the Wildcats. The group, escorted by local officers, would then turn right on Church Street and pass Echo Publishing, where Higgins’ mother, Patti Stone Sells, was a feature writer for the News-Telegram. From there the journey would continue around the square and onto Gilmer/South Broadway streets and head south.
“I want to take that young man past where he went to school and played football, and where his mother worked,” Bayuk said. “We’d like to go through the heart of town and really give people the chance to show their support.”
Anyone wanting to show their support of the family and salute Sgt. Higgins can put up displays or ribbons in yellow or red, white and blue. Yantis is already flooded with patriotic colors to honor Higgins and in support of his survivors, which include his wife, Shelby Allen Higgins, and her family.
Sgt. Higgins will also be one of 20 soldiers honored tonight at North Beach in Tybee Island in Georgia as part of CNN’s “Hometown Heroes” segment. Twenty Chinese lanterns will be lit and sent out to sea, one of them for Sgt. Higgins, his mother, Patti Stone Sells, said Friday morning.
Tybee Island Mayor Jason Buelterman announced Thursday morning a memorial will be held at 8:30 p.m. on North Beach for Sgt. Higgins, who died as part of a firefight Saturday, April 14, in Logar Province in Afghanistan, the Savannah Morning News (savannahnow.com) reported.
Sgt. Higgins’ fifth deployment overseas began in March in Afghanistan, his fourth tour there. He also served one tour of duty in Iraq, according to his mother. He died in Afghanistan while serving with the 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, which is based at Georgia’s Hunter Army Airfield.
“We are so thankful for the outpouring of love and kindness,” Sells said. “We can feel all the prayers going up for us. We have a tough week still ahead and hope they will continue to pray for us. Everyone has been so great, so supportive. It’s been amazing.”
The Lone Star Dodge dealership in Sulphur Springs, for example, has offered to provide Sells a vehicle to drive while she’s in the area, or however long is needed, she said.
“That’s a great help,” Sells said. “We’re just thankful to so many who have shown support of Tanner and us during this.”
Many in Yantis and Sulphur Springs have already found ways to honor Higgins, the most obvious being the displays of yellow ribbons and patriotic colors, as well as flying their flags at half mast in honor of the hometown hero.
Sulphur Springs Independent School District will have all campuses fly flags at half-mast through Friday, April 27, in honor of Tanner Higgins, a 2007 graduate of Sulphur Springs High School, according to SSISD Superintendent Patsy Bolton.
The members of the Sulphur Springs High School Class of 2007, who graduated with Sgt. Higgins, challenge “all Sulphur Springs businesses and residents to tie ribbons in their front yard to bring home Tanner Hero Higgins to honor him with love and gratitude.”
The challenge was issued on the Facebook page “In Remembrance of Tanner Higgins,” established Sunday by former classmate Jordan Anderson so friends and family can post pictures and share memories of Higgins. The website had received several hundred “likes” within a few hours, and as of Friday morning had more than 1,500 “likes.”
“An incredible number of people showed interest right off,” said Bailey Blount, who along with Anderson and Kayla Morgan Overly are leading the SSHS Class of 2007’s charge to make sure their classmate is never forgotten, nor his sacrifice.
“It’s been hard on our class, all of us,” Blount said. “We ask that people continue to pray for his wife Shelby and family; this is obviously hardest on them. They need them most.”
Blount said the class wants to ensure his memory is not forgotten and to honor the life and sacrifice of the fallen classmate who was selfless through the end. She explained she often spoke with Sgt. Higgins, who his friends have affectionately referred to as “Tan Tan the Army Man.” Higgins gave himself the moniker when his decision to join the Army was official. She said while friends asked him to be careful and promised to pray for him, he selflessly thought of others instead of himself. He was going off to do what he loved, serving as an Army Ranger, but was concerned for his wife, Shelby Allen Higgins, who he’d just married in October and would be alone at their Georgia home for the first time.
The Class of 2007 has other plans to honor Higgins and help his family.
“We have a couple of things in the works,” said Blount. “We all grew up with Tanner and were friends with him. I’ve known him since seventh grade. He was one of a kind. The reality is he will not be there at reunions and functions. It’s sad that he won’t be there.”
One thing important to the Class of 2007 is to make sure Sgt. Higgins is among those honored on the downtown Veterans Memorial. They plan to purchase a brick paver in his name for the monument. The class also plans to sell bracelets honoring Sgt. Higgins, with the money raised going to his wife, Shelby. If it all comes together, bracelets will be sold at Powers and Blount Attorneys At Law, 200 North Jackson St., and at Dr. Timothy J. Cardile’s chiropractice clinic, 314 Oak Ave., in Sulphur Springs in the days following the funeral service.
Other ideas the Class of 2007 is considering and would like to see come to fruition are a memorial fund established in town in Sgt. Higgins’ honor, which would allow for the purchase of a plaque, statue or bench to be placed somewhere in Sulphur Springs; possibly a memorial at the fort where he was stationed in Georgia; and requesting his football jersey number be retired at SSHS. Blount said the class will post updates on the Facebook page and release information regarding any and all memorial projects as soon as the information is available.
Sgt. Higgins was the husband of Shelby Allen Higgins of Georgia; the son of Danny Higgins of Hurst and Patti Stone Sells of Tybee Island, Ga.; the grandson of Martha and Glenn Roy Dickens of Winnsboro and Gerald and Betty Higgins of Hurst; and brother of Noah Sells of Tybee Island, Ga., Army Pvt. Dillon Heneger, who is stationed at Fort Benning in Columbus, Ga., and is currently preparing to enter the Ranger Indoctrination Program, and Hunter Higgins of Hurst.
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