A Drive in the Country on Memorial Day

Just east of the Texas town of Mt. Pleasant drivers on Interstate 30 will find the first exit of the area. Exit 165 appears to be more for convenience to reach a part of the trailer manufacturing company than to reach anywhere of any great significance. Taking the exit will lead you onto FM 1001 where you will wind your way to the left over the Interstate and down to the crossing of Highway 67. If you cross over 67, you will find yourself on FM 2348 or as locals may call it, Chauncy R. Mays Memorial Highway.

The road winds through a peaceful country on the east side of Mt. Pleasant and eventually brings you back around into the town area. You’ll see farms, ponds, and small homes along the way. It’s a beautiful ride and worth the drive to see. You’ll cross a railroad overpass where you may or may not see a train cutting through the area from the east or back from the west. The road will curve slightly and the driver with the keen eye will notice a pull-off area to the left.

If the driver slows down, the eyes will be drawn to a tall flag pole, a painted fence, a park bench, and a small area set back into the fence with a headstone. The first time I saw it, I was prompted to turn around, drive back, and investigate. Naturally there are plenty of graves along Texas roads where you can find a pioneer grave marker, or a small memorial, but this one looked newer, and more modern. Like many drivers I was drawn to stop.

Once in front of the marker, I found it was not a grave, but a memorial instead. The memorial named the Farm Market Road Chauncy R. Mays Memorial Highway. Mays was a Staff Sergeant born in 1985 in Sulphur Springs, Texas. In 2004, he joined the United States Army. After training, Mays became an Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician with the 763rd EOD Company. He completed tours in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and in Operation Enduring Freedom.

Mays was decorated with three Bronze Star Medals, the Purple Heart, Army Commendation Medal, two Army Achievement Medals, three Good Conduct Medals, National Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Non-Commissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, NATO Medal, Meritorious Uni Citation, Combat Action Badge, Senior EOD badge, and Driver’s Bade.

Sergeant Mays was married to Katherine and had two daughters. His parents live in Cookville, Texas, and Daingerfield, Texas.

Sergeant Mays’ decorations and service record was clearly listed on the marker. In addition, it was noted that on February 28, 2011 in Tangi, Afghanistan Staff Sergeant Chauncy R. Mays was killed in action. An engraved picture in the corner shows Mays on one of his deployments.

In those few short minutes standing on the side of a Texas Farm Market road, I learned a lot about Mays. I examined some of the coins left on the memorial. It was more than apparent that I had not simply found some obscure and forgotten memorial site. No, Chauncy Mays had several people connected to him. For a few minutes I thought back to what I was doing on February 28, 2011. Since it was a Monday, I imagined I was at work. I was likely sitting behind a desk somewhere, free, safe, and working on my daily task while Mays was out serving our country and protecting that freedom. I figure I stopped around noon, ate lunch in an air-conditioned office, visited with co-workers, and returned to work. I did this in the safety of Texarkana and far from Afghanistan.

While I was safe at home, Staff Sergeant Chauncy R. Mays was adding his life’s blood to those red stripes of our flag. He was making the ultimate sacrifice. I would see my children again that day in 2011, Mays would not. I would drive home from work that day, Mays would be carried home. I would go on to watch my children grow, and Mays would never see his daughters grow. Someday I would watch my children graduate, go to college, get married, and Mays would be represented by a picture or a flag in attendance at such important life events.

Staff Sergeant Chauncy R. Mays is not alone on that old Farm Market Road in Texas. There are thousands upon thousands of men and women like him. They are the ones who answered the call to serve our country. I am sure none of them went out looking to die, but each knew it was possible. Still, they went. Through our history of wars, skirmishes, and battles, they have risen to the call and fallen in the field. We have one day each year where we collectively pause as a nation and remember the men and women like Mays. However, on that small Farm Market road, each time I drive by now, I remember his story because of the memorial. It’s a beautiful country road with impressive views of ponds and farms and one tiny roadside stop that serves as Mays’ memorial. It’s fitting that among the beauty of that area there would be a memorial to remind us. We should not remember our fallen on just one day, but we should be reminded daily to never take this country for granted. Staff Sergeant Chauncy R. Mays and many others made the ultimate sacrifice so that you and I can freely enjoy a drive on any beautiful country roads in America.

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