Clayton McGraw, commander of the Hopkins County Military Coalition for the past eight years was surprised with a plaque Thursday night at the Hopkins County Chamber of Commerce office as he passed the torch to former 1st vice-commander of the coalition, Gene White, who will be taking his place.
Photo Courtesy of HC Military Coalition

Changing of the Guard

Military coalition commander stepping down after 8 years, plans to focus more time on Veterans Memorial project

By PATTI SELLS, News-Telegram Feature Writer

Feb. 22, 2008 - What Clayton McGraw thought would be a regular meeting Thursday night of the Hopkins County Military Coalition turned out to be a surprise farewell in his honor as he stepped down as the group's commander after eight years of service.

"Clayton has been instrumental in helping the coalition grow and expand in this community," said Gene White, a retired Air Force officer and former 1st vice-commander of military coalition, who will be taking McGraw's place. "I don't intend to replace him. He's been the best public relations man the coalition has ever had."

The military coalition formed in 1998 with just a few men, according to McGraw, who took over as commander in 2000. In the years since, membership has fluctuated, reaching as high as 52 and currently standing at approximately 35.

"They're a great bunch of guys," McGraw said of the group's members, whose primary focus is that of military graveside honors for deceased veterans. The coalition, which as been honored with a Community Pride Award for its mission, has performed 461 funerals in the county since its inception.

Other functions of the coalition include presenting flag books to sixth grade students at middle and junior high schools throughout the county each year, as well as conducting the presentation of the colors at various community and civic events.

"I've enjoyed it. It's kept me real busy," said McGraw, who is currently committee organizer for the Hopkins County Veteran's Memorial Committee.

In fact, his devotion to and work on the veterans memorial project was one of the major factors in his decision to step down from the leadership of the Hopkins County Military Coalition

"Clayton is very involved in church and he's the real driving force behind the Veterans Memorial, and feels that he needs the extra time to devote to those things," explained White.

McGraw said he plans to remain active in the coalition, helping in any way he can.

"We'll definitely be calling on him to help and assist us in the future," White said. "We wish him the best in whatever he undertakes, and we know he will do an extremely good job on anything he does."

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