Masonry Around the Nation
On May 2, 2004, Petty Officer 3rd Class Jeff Blackmon was injured in a mortar attack in Iraq that killed seven of his fellow Seabees from the Jacksonville, Fla.-based Naval Mobile Construction Battalion. The injuries Blackmon sustained left him a quadriplegic. When citizens in both South Georgia and North Florida heard about Blackmon's valor in the line of duty, they came together to provide him with a 3,100-square-foot, wheelchair-accessible home.
The creation and completion of the Blackmon family's home turned into a domino effect. In the beginning, students from Georgia Skills at Camden County High School made building Blackmon's new home a community project. From there, Carlos Jones, the construction instructor at Camden County High School, in turn asked the Florida Masonry Apprenticeship and Educational Foundation (FMAEF) for assistance with the masonry on the home.
Then, Al Herndon, the FMAEF northern apprenticeship representative, got several members of the masonry industry involved. Bryan Light of Brick Southeast donated 6,000 bricks, while Mike Beville, a retired Army colonel and masonry instructor for the northeast chapter of the Masonry Association of Florida, along with Robert Carlton of Carlton Walker Block located 12 apprentices and journeyman masons to donate their services for the project. Also, Steve Meggs, a salesman for Florida Rock and a mason by trade, assisted with the masonry, while the Georgia Concrete Products Association and Savannah, Ga., mason instructors also leant their support.
On June 17, 2006, more than 200 people attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony to present the Blackmon family with the keys to their new home. Blackmon arrived in his dress uniform escorted by members of the Navy Honor Guard and the Vietnam Veterans Association. Members of the Navy and Marines from the Kings Bay Submarine Base also attended the ceremony, as well as representatives from the Army and Air Force. Veterans in attendance collectively represented the WWII, Korean, Vietnam, Desert Storm and the Iraq wars. A bell was clanged and his family's arrival was announced like the introduction of a high-ranking officer or dignitary at a naval ceremony.
Capt. Mike McKinnon, commanding officer of Kings Bay Naval Base, said that the volunteers showed the tremendous support that the area has for the military.
Jones said the Blackmon family residence was the most gratifying project of his teaching career. However, for Blackmon, it was a well-deserved homecoming.
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