Faces of Freedom

Southside military veterans’ experiences shape them into leaders

Millions around the country will celebrate Independence Day this year with family, friends, fireworks, cookouts and perhaps a concert. While listening to “The Star Spangled Banner”, “You’re a Grand Old Flag” and “Yankee Doodle Dandy”, take a few moments to remember those brave and courageous men and women who have selflessly fought for our freedom.

Each year, The Southside Times recognizes a few of those honorable and loyal veterans. This year, we are featuring four Southside individuals who have their own stories of how their past military service has shaped them into the people they are today: Ed Cammon (Army/Navy), Seth Hall (Army), Tim Jeffers (Army) and Chavis Kentrick (Air Force).

Each veteran spoke of his experience and skills learned in the military and how that practice has changed his life.

Cammon, a Greenwood resident who served in the Navy during the Vietnam War, decided to re-enlist years later by joining the Army; his love of aviation brought him back into the military.

Hall, a Franklin Township dentist, put his skills learned in college to use while in the Army. Chavis, meanwhile, followed the advice of his own Dad, a navy veteran. His father suggested that he go into the armed forces to help pay for his education.

Jeffers, an Army veteran, learned valuable leadership skills in service that have inspired him to currently run as a state representative from District # 90.

On Independence Day, take a moment to remember those who have fought for our country and thank a veteran for his or her service.

AIR FORCE: Chavis Kendrick

By Jeremy Dunn

Following his father’s advice, Staff Sergeant Chavis Kendrick found his calling in service

As a teenager, Chavis Kendrick quickly learned that life does not always unfold how one my plan it to. Born and raised in the inner city of Miami, he eventually moved to South Carolina and graduated from Goose Creek High School when he was 17 years old. Kendrick planned to attend college and major in sports marketing and hospitality retail management at one of the five well-known universities that he had been accepted to; that included the University of South Carolina, Clemson University, Francis Marion University, Coastal Carolina University and North Carolina A & T State University.

However, the young Florida native quickly realized the high costs associated with higher education. Unsure of how he would pay for college, Kendrick turned to his father for advice. The 10-year Navy veteran recommend that Chavis explore Armed Forces but the 17-year-old was skeptical. He recalled, “Due to ignorance, I believed that joining the military was basically turning yourself into a robot. As the school year came to a close, I realized I had to make a decision for my adult life and I began to let go of my fears and explore the facts of serving.”

A father’s wisdom

Upon his decision join the military, Kendrick once again turned to his father, who offered the following advice: “If you join any branch, it better be the Air Force. You will not regret it.” By June of 2012, Chavis embraced his father’s suggestions and joined the Air Force. His first career placement found him as a pharmacy craftsman before being temporarily assigned as a Force Protection Escort while serving overseas. Kendrick has been deployed to Kuwait and the Kingdom of Jordan while also being temporarily placed in Ireland, Germany and various locations throughout the United States. He has been permanently stationed at Patrick Air Force Base in Florida and currently in Indiana. The worldly traveler is now assigned as an Enlisted Accessions recruiter, responsible for engaging, inspiring and recruiting the brightest, most competitive and diverse men and women for service with the United States Air Force.

Kendrick perceives his time overseas as one of the most memorable parts of his service. “The greatest memory of my career thus far was deploying overseas to the country of Kuwait and the Kingdom of Jordan,” he said. “The experience of learning another culture and protecting a couple of allied host nations was priceless. That tour significantly humbled me and allowed me to realize how fortunate we are in America.” The lively personality also added, “Not to mention, the food was amazing. If you haven’t already go and try Shawarma!”

Following the advice of his father, Staff Sergeant Chavis Kendrick joined the United States Air Force at the age of 17. (Submitted Photo)

Defining a hero

The staff sergeant’s time with the Air Force has helped him define what a hero truly is. “A hero is someone who is not the strongest nor the bravest but the one who steps in and does what is right when it needs to be done. A hero thinks of themselves last and those in need first and never gives up,” Kendrick said. He credits his aunt, Cha-Cha, a two-time cancer survivor as being his biggest hero. “She continues to remain resilient and take care of her family. She is a solider for sure,” he said. Kendrick also acknowledges his brother and sisters in arms as being true heroes. “They have vowed to defend the U.S. Constitution with their lives, and I salute all of those who have served honorably and those young men and women who are planning on joining in the future.”

Motivating the future

Just as his father had advised him, Kendrick urges today’s youth to embrace the potential of building a future for yourself. “Never let anyone tell you that you cannot accomplish your goals. The world is your canvas that you can use to create a masterpiece how you see fit. Always do what is right even when no one is looking,” he said. The Air Force recruiter also credits his time in the service as the best preparation for establishing a solid foundation for life. “The Air Force teaches you skills you need to propel your life as an adult. Whether that be financial responsibility, leadership skills, critical thinking or the importance of physical fitness and health, there is always an opportunity to create a great lie for yourself but the older you get the harder it becomes.”

Writing the next chapter

Thanks to his service, Staff Sergeant Kendrick has now earned two associate degrees in pharmacy technology and human resources management along with a bachelor’s degree in sports marketing and media. Reflecting on his father’s advice to him at 17, Kendrick shared, “He was completely correct. Since joining the Air Force, I have had nothing but great experiences and a start to my adult life that I could not be more grateful for! During my career, I have made life-long friendships, gained endless job experience, traveled to places at the age of 18 that some individuals may never see in their lives and had the opportunity to serve this great nation.”

Now, Chavis Kendrick hopes to keep his father’s words alive by passing his wisdom onto the next generation of service for our country.

ARMY: Tim Jeffers

Following a long legacy of service, a guardsman looks to add his own chapter

By Jeremy Dunn

Tim Jeffers comes from a long line of service. His father, grandfather and five uncles served in the United States military. Most notably, the actions of his grandfather helped establish a future timeline that would impress even Marty McFly. Jeffers recalled, “My grandfather, Robert L. Murphy, volunteered for WWI and became a sergeant major for COL Robert Moorhead, who commanded the 4th Indiana Infantry, the 139th Field Artillery. These troops made it to England and eventually France just before the war ended. Fortunately, hostilities ended before they saw combat. However, I found out some years ago that the troop ship they were sailing on was torpedoed not once but twice and hobbled its way into Britain. I mention this only to emphasize how luck plays into our lives and how fate dictates so much. If Grandpa Murphy doesn’t survive the torpedo attack in 1918, I don’t make the picture… no mother, no uncles, no cousins, nobody.”

This powerful recollection that causes one to evaluate the space-time continuum and everything learned in Back to the Future, led to a timeline that has seen Tim Jeffers work for four Indiana governors, three Indiana speakers, two congressmen, two general officers and countless hours of service to our country.

Forging his own path

Growing up in Irvington, Jeffers was one of six children raised by Tom and Marilyn Jeffers, both of Irish and French Canadian decent. He graduated from Scecina Memorial High School in 1983 before attending West Point. After a brief stint at the renowned military academy, Jeffers decided to transfer home to attend Wabash College, where he played two years of baseball and graduated in 1987. By 1995, Tim accepted a direct admission into the Indiana National Guard and became a U.S. Army Public Affairs Officer, serving at the 126th Press Camp Headquarters at Stout Field and in the 76th Infantry Brigade.

Less than a decade later, he would receive a once-in-a-lifetime assignment. “In the summer of 2004, I received orders to report to Fort Jackson, South Carolina for Operation Iraqi Freedom. I was truly an Army of One and was attached to the 98th Division out of New York. The 98th Division was tasked with training the Iraqi Army and Police under the command of Lieutenant General David H. Petraeus. I arrived in the country on Christmas Eve 2004 and left in September 2005,” Jeffers said.

When asked of his greatest memories of his time in service, Jeffers reflected, “Two things come to mind. One, the smiles on the young faces of young children when Guardsmen and women from Alabama and Indiana participated in a mission to renovate a hospital and an AIDS orphanage in Constantia, Romania in 1996. Secondly, the images of Iraqi citizens leaving various polling stations where they voted for the first time in 2005 and showing off their purple thumbs.”

Indiana National Guardsman Tim Jeffers served under Lieutenant General David H. Petraeus during Operation Iraqi Freedom. (Submitted Photo)

Heroism and looking forward

The local guardsman finds extraordinary courage to be the determining factor in defining true heroism. “A hero is someone who displays extraordinary courage in difficult circumstances and may risk their life, personal status, or reputation in an effort to defend another person, value, belief or idea,” he said. Jeffers hopes to inspire the next generations of heroes to navigate, what he has come to see as, a changing landscape throughout the United States. “Consider a career in public service or the military,” he advised. “Times are changing very rapidly and our government, media and businesses are having difficulty keeping up with the changes. We need bright, thoughtful, young leaders to help us find the way in this brave new world including the impact of artificial intelligence on our society.”

Defining his own timeline

In 1994, Jeffers made his first attempt running for office as secretary of state unsuccessful. He teases that he was ahead of his time as he was ultimately promoting the elimination of the very office he was in contention for and several states began to follow suit, terminating their secretaries of state. Moving forward, the guardsman eyes a return to politics and sees a unified front as the answer. “Hoosier State Government is always better and more effective when Republicans and Democrats have a voice and are working together,” Jeffers said.

As the potential state representative from District #90 prepares for a new campaign, Jeffers still holds true to the importance of luck and how it can be the ultimate dealer in hand that fate is dealt. He poetically concluded, “My first cousin, Mike Murphy, used to serve in the same house seat. Yes, another Murphy who would not have been around to serve if that German U-boat would have gotten the job done in 1918. Thank goodness luck smiles on us from time to time.”

ARMY: Seth Hall

Inspired by his father, a local dentist strives to make global impacts

By Jeremy Dunn

2009’s hit comedy The Hangover contained a running joke throughout the film that teased Ed Helm’s character Stu as being “just a dentist” each time he was trying to impress someone. However, do not let Seth Hall’s fun-loving personality mislead you. The Franklin Township dentist and Army veteran is much more than “just a dentist.” Following in the footsteps of his father, he strives to find happiness and help others through his service.

Following the path to service

Hall grew up in Mitchell, Indiana with his sister, Emily and his parents, Mark and Pat. After graduating high school, he attended the University of Evansville and earned his degree in 2006. Growing up in a tight-knit family, the U of E graduate saw his father, Mark, as a role model. Mark Hall was a well-respected dentist (and still currently practicing dentistry in Bedford, Indiana) and a driving inspiration in his son’s future plans. “My dad has always been my role model and is the reason I wanted to become a dentist” Seth said. “He is an amazing man and has always been someone I looked up to and wanted to do well in sports and school for him.”

Witnessing his father’s ability to help others inspired Seth to enroll in the Indiana University Dental School. By 2010, Hall graduated and was eager to begin his journey as a dentist. However, his path took an interesting turn when he decided to use his skills to help serve his country by becoming a dentist for the United States Army. “Joining the Army was a decision that just seemed like the right thing to do and you always want to give back to the country that gives us freedom.” Hall recollected.

Seth Hall served as an Army dentist during a tour in Afghanistan. (Submitted Photo)

The life of an Army dentist

Hall’s service led him to a stint at Fort Benning in Georgia, a tour in Afghanistan and an assignment in Kentucky at Fort Knox. The Mitchell native found himself practicing dentistry while serving on some of the biggest military stages our country has to offer. However, it was his time in Afghanistan that he found the most moving. “My greatest memories came during my time in Afghanistan in the interactions with those men and women that sacrifice daily for us. Hearing their stories were surreal and made me appreciate more what those in the military do,” he said. In 2014, Hall, inspired by his experiences while serving in the Army, moved back to Indiana to open his own dental practice, Hall Family Dentistry on the southeast side of Indianapolis.

A life dedicated to service

The Franklin Township dentist strongly believes that his time in the Army best prepared him to be his best and serve others. Hall reflected, “Serving in the military has helped me appreciate life more and embrace the good things. It has made me a better person and makes me want to serve my awesome patients and make each person smile every day I am at the office. To all of those who have served, are currently serving and will serve, I truly thank you for your service.”

The smile-driven Army veteran advises youth, “…to be happy in the life you have. Life has ups and downs, but there is always one thing that is going well. That is what you should focus on, not the things you don’t have or can’t get.”

A hero inspiring heroes

Reflecting on his father and time in the military, Seth Hall defines a hero as, “…someone who makes you want to be a better person by seeing the way that they carry themselves. I was blessed to meet a ton of people I would call heroes in my military career.” Poetic as it is, Hall finds himself being a living example of his very definition of heroism. Each day, striving to share an infectious smile and passion for living, Mark Hall’s son is serving as the same role model to others as his father was to him. One can only hope that Hall’s dedication to service inspires future generations to embrace the opportunity to help others and find happiness. Without a doubt, this Army veteran is much more than “just a dentist.”

ARMY/NAVY: Ed Cammon

Vietnam War vet re-enlisted in navy to give back to country

By Stephanie Dolan

Some men enter the service with their discharge already in sight. They count the days, they do their time and they leave their branch of the military proud to have served but thankful that the service has come to an end.

Others, like Ed Cammon of Greenwood, enter the service out of a sense of duty and they re-enlist happily knowing that even more years will be spent giving back to the country they feel has given them so much.

Cammon, 64, initially enlisted in the navy at the age of 23. He was in the last round to be drafted during the Vietnam War in 1977.

“It was a different time,” he said. “My number was up and I knew I was going into some form of military service. I signed into the navy and signed up for aviation school to learn electrical systems.”

Originally from upstate New York, Cammon did four years and seven months in the navy. The oldest of his two sons, Pat, was born in a naval hospital in Pensacola, Fla.

While in the navy, Cammon worked for a training squadron and spent a lot of time on aircraft carriers.

“We’d go out, make big circles in the ocean and come back in,” he said.

Always a fan of flying and aircraft, this is what ultimately pulled Cammon backed into service in 1992.

“I did five years in the army,” he said, recalling the request he received to enlist and work with helicopters. “They needed technical people and I had experience with electrical systems on aircraft. They took me in as a technical inspector.”

This time around, Cammon’s unit was activated to go to the first Gulf War. Ultimately, though, he stayed stateside because the helicopters he would be working with didn’t include the preferred form of armament.

Ed Cammon is a fan of flying and aircraft, which pulled him back into service. (Submitted Photo)

“I enjoyed the camaraderie with the technicians and helping everybody work on the aircraft,” he said. “That’s one of the things I like about aviation period is the quality aircraft.”

Yet, even though Cammon had two very substantial stints in the military, he feels as though his greatest contributions came during his time as a civilian.

“My military work goes far beyond my time in the army and navy,” he said. “I was a contractor over in the middle east, two years in Iraq and three years in Afghanistan building infrastructure for military and NATO allies.”

Cammon noted that, while he was never sent to warzones while in the military, he was right in the thick of it as a civilian contractor.

“I saw some instances of guys who weren’t going to come back,” he said. “I used to listen to a lot of the stories of what they did while they were out on patrol. Some were pretty brutal.”

While Cammon still enjoys his work as an electrical engineer, he has no intention of re-entering the theatre of war.

“I feel like I did my part in both my services to the navy and to the army,” he said. “But I feel like I was able to actually do more as a civilian.”

And of course, Cammon missed his family.

“There are times I know I missed a lot of the little thing,” he said. “But I’m glad I didn’t shirt of the responsibility of ensuring the safety of my family as well as the safety of the country.”

And Cammon’s wife, Mary, is ready for her husband to be home.

“I have friends all over the world who are trying to drag me back into military contract work. But my wife has had enough of it,” he added with a chuckle.

Still, Cammon is proud of and thankful for his time serving both in and out of uniform.

“I’d do it all over again,” he said.