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Cadets honor Arthur
Grandfather accepts honor, reflects on tragedy
Jesse France, grandfather of former cadet Heather Arthur, with members of the BCHS JROTC. - photo by Ross Blair

The BCHS JROTC program posthumously promoted Cadet Heather Arthur to Corporal at their March assembly in the BCHS gymnasium on Wednesday.

Ranking members presented Heather’s grandfather, Jesse France, with an honorary plaque as well. Afterward, France reflected on how he and his family are handling their loss and expressed his gratitude to a community they have received an overwhelming amount of support from.

During the assembly roll call, Heather’s name was called out three times. This was followed by the cadets saluting while taps was played.

Sergeant Major Liston Bradley was pleased to report that the JROTC’s memorial car wash raised $2,500 over the weekend with the proceeds going to help the families of Heather and Melissa Arthur and Laura Cobb with recent funeral expenses. The three girls were killed in an auto accident last week. The driver, Tam Duc Le, remains in critical condition.

"This is truly an honor," said France, who himself spent 23 years as a professional soldier. "She loved the program. My daughter and son-in-law couldn’t be here as they couldn’t emotionally deal with this right now."

"This is a very difficult time, and you would never believe me if I tried to explain to you what this community has done for this family and how the effect of it has been," France continued. "Never would they (Arthur parents) have believed that their two daughters at 15 and 17 would have this kind of effect on the community. This is what the father said to me today ‘my two children, in the short years that they’ve lived here, have touched the lives of more people than I have ever touched in the forty years I’ve lived’."

He said that numerous ministers, of all denominations, have visited the family "because they want to help them get through this. I could not tell you the number of people who have reached out to us. I got letters from Venezuela, Brazil, Canada for our family through the Methodist Church (France is a local Methodist minister). Not only from Methodists, but from Baptists, Protestants, you name it – people who just heard what happened and felt the desire to say we’ll pray for you."

He spoke of the large turnout at the funerals and of his granddaughters’ best friend Laura Cobb.

"Laura, bless her heart, was just like one of our grandkids – running in and out the door, in the refrigator. I loved her dearly. All three kids and my wife celebrated my wife’s birthday with her on a Monday and this happened on Wednesday, and we remember that and hold on to that and all the funny things that we can remember about them. Those are things that make a difference in your life and the things that make you want to help these children (looks around at students in gym) learn the significance of ‘every moment we live, we need to touch peoples’ lives in a good way’ and that’s hard to do sometime, but we have to strive to do it nonetheless."

France spoke highly of a community that rallied in support of the family, and commented on the others involved in the accident.

"Through all the grief, something will come out of this that is good for a lot of people," France said. "I believe God works that way. Things happen in life and how we let it affect us is where the good will come out in it…or not. There is good in the lives of those children - all three of them - and in that young man (Le). I got to go see that young man’s mother. We need to be there for her. Nobody holds anyone at fault here. It’s a tragedy."

"Things happen in life. And the young lady that hit them – it’s not her fault. She was in the wrong place at the right time. Robin (Wilkes, driver of the other vehicle in the accident) lives right down the way from us. I haven’t made it down to see her yet, but I intend to. We love those people, and I want to help them get through this if I can, whether it’s something I can say or a hug or just pray with them because we’re all in this together as a community. And this community truly has come together. We’ve been so amazed at the outpouring of love and support from this community."

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