CLAY COUNTY (KFDX/KJTL) — For most people in Texoma, Bellevue, Texas is known as the trap with one working gas station between Henrietta and Bowie, but for the 289 people inside Bellevue city limits, it’s known as home.
A small town means a close community, often experiencing ups and downs in the same rhythm.
Every year, Bellevue holds a Veteran’s Day program at Bellevue High School, but on November 11, 2022, the school’s Veteran’s Day program had significantly more meaning.
For Dr. David Greer, former U.S. Army Flight Surgeon in Vietnam and keynote speaker…
It’s this kind of event that reminds him of what he and his fellow veterans were fighting for.
“It’s wonderful,” Dr. Greer said. “It gives me new hope in America. I think that to see these young kids standing up on that stage, singing the Star Spangled Banner, and saying the Pledge of Allegiance… It means that we’re not done yet.”
In 2022, the City of Bellevue and Bellevue ISD, along with officials with Clay County, presented a way in which they will be honoring a veteran who attended Bellevue High School, then joined the army shortly after graduating.
“The people who did go, some of them weren’t happy about being there, but they served anyway,” Dr. Greer said. “People like Eddie Edgemon stood up for themselves and said, ‘I’m gonna go.'”
James Edward “Eddie” Edgemon was born in 1950 in Vashti, Texas, six miles outside of Bellevue. He graduated from Bellevue High School in 1969, and most of his peers agreed, he was beloved by everyone he crossed paths with.
“He was a friend to everybody,” said Clay County Judge Mike Campbell, also a Bellevue High School graduate. “He was an encourager, he would build you up, he was a team player and he made sure that each of us was a team player too, and I know that he served us well in the military service that he gave.”
Edgemon enlisted in the United States Army after he graduated, and in 1970, he was deployed to aid in the United States’ ongoing war in Vietnam.
But, for a town as tightly knit as Bellevue, it wasn’t just a random member of the community going off to war. It was a brother, a cousin, a nephew, a classmate, a peer, a coworker, and a friend. As the old colloquialism goes, “everybody knows everybody in a small town.”
Judge Campbell remembers what it was like growing up and knowing soldiers who were on the front lines of major conflicts.
“Every night, we listened to the national news, and they always gave the body count,” Campbell said. “And, it didn’t really mean that much to us, until it’s one of your neighbors, one of your friends. That’s when it really hits home.”
On March 28, 1971, while Eddie was stationed at Fire Base Mary Ann in Vietnam, a surprise attack in the late hours of the night left the firebase destroyed.
Eddie Edgemon, along with 29 other American soldiers, was killed in action.
For so many in Bellevue and in nearby Vashti, Eddie’s hometown, they could only feel heartbreak.
Judge Campbell said Eddie’s funeral was standing room only.
“The processional from First Baptist Church in Bellevue to Vashti, to the cemetery where Eddie was buried, when the first cars arrived at Vashti, they were still leaving Bellevue Church,” Campbell said.
Over six miles of cars, full of community members, made the journey to honor a soldier who lost their life in service to this country. But for decades, all the community had in honor of Eddie were his headstones in Vashti Cemetery.
“There needed to be more in Bellevue because this is where he grew up,” Judge Campbell said. “This is where he lived, this is where his family still is.
More than half a century after his death. he’s being properly honored, with shadow boxes set to be hung in the Bellevue and Vashti Community Centers, his uniform to be hung in the 1890 Jail Museum in Clay County, and folded flags donated by the office of Rep. Ronny Jackson.
Judge Campbell said it was so important that Bellevue students saw the community honor a local veteran who didn’t make it home and do so among other veterans from the area.
“Freedom isn’t free,” Judge Campbell said. “That’s why it was so important for our students to see this today.”
It’s a lesson that every single one of the nearly 50 veterans in attendance doesn’t take lightly.
“I thought it was so powerful for all of those children to walk by and shake their hands,” Campbell said, fighting back tears. “And understand that these are real people that walked these halls.”
The same halls walked by a small-town hero… United States Army Specialist James Edward Edgemon.