A Unique Search and Rescue Mission
Each year at Christmastime, the employees at Lowes in Guntersville are given an opportunity to “adopt” residents at Marshall Manor. Arlene Holland, a Lowes Pro Services Team member, collects the profiles on twenty of our residents for willing participants to review in order to personally choose who it is they will sponsor. “Lowes mantra to their employees is, ‘Loving Where You Live,’” Arlene said through a smile, “and this is always one way we can reach out to others in our community to ensure that mission is a reality for them.”
The fact is, Arlene had been praying for a Veteran to adopt Mr. Thomas Cummings. Mr. Cummings is a Veteran of the Korean Conflict and Vietnam War where he served as a Lieutenant in the Marine Corps. He spent a long period of time in the hospital prior to being admitted to Marshall Manor. Initially, he was admitted for a short-term rehabilitation stay with plans to receive therapy and return home. However, DHR Social Services determined that Mr. Cummings’ living conditions were not favorable for his return there. So, he transitioned into long-term care at Marshall Manor.
In addition to his health-related issues, there have been many negative and downright devastating events that have taken place in Mr. Cummings’ life over the past year. Most of them were the result of people that he trusted seemingly deciding to abandon him. After his transition to long-term care, all of Mr. Cummings’ personal belongings and other items that he greatly cherished were supposed to be placed in storage for him by his friends. Instead, they vanished and he still doesn’t know how or why.
Marshall Manor staff pulled together to resupply Mr. Cummings with some clothing, personal items, and other necessities. But there are so many things that simply can’t be replaced. Specifically, the most beloved item lost to him was an American Flag which happened to be hand sewn by his mother throughout the course of his years in the service and also had all his service medals pinned to it. The culmination of all this placed Mr. Cummings in a state of despair. His outlook, demeanor, and mood were greatly affected and he really needed a miracle to lift his spirit.
That’s where Greg Brackenbury comes into the story! An employee at Lowes, Greg is also a Veteran who served with the 82nd Airborne Division in Afghanistan. “I was really just looking for someone who was an Alabama fan and liked Disney stuff.” This was the simple and humorous way Greg approached his decision on who to “adopt” from the resident profiles. “But when I learned about Mr. Thomas Cummings’ story, I felt adopting him was something that was inspired and I also knew exactly what I was going to do.”
Greg’s baby brother, Ret. Master Sergeant Mike Brackenbury, has twenty-three years in the Air Force. Mike served two tours in Iraq and three tours in Afghanistan where he flew over one-hundred search and rescue missions. Of course, one thing that is always present on each mission is the American Flag. Over the years, Mike has gifted Greg and his other brother and sister with the flags that were flown during three of the missions he piloted.
Pictured Above Standing from Left to Right: Charles Roderick, Rachel Wilson, Arlene Holland, & Greg Brackenbury Seated: Mr. Thomas Cummings
When the employees from Lowes visited Marshall Manor to have a party and bring gifts to their “adopted” residents, Greg was right in the mix with them giving hands and feet to what was already in his heart as he presented Mr. Thomas Cummings with the flag that Mike had given him. “It just made sense to pass it on, or pass it back,” Greg said with confidence. “It meant a lot to meet Mr. Cummings, but to have the opportunity to show him honor and respect was an extra special experience.”
Greg is not going to let it stop there. It just so happens that Mr. Cummings is also a big fan of Alabama football AND Disney stuff! “I plan on coming to the nursing home regularly to build a relationship with Mr. Cummings,” Greg resolved, “I think the first movie we’ll watch together is Jungle Book. But mainly I just want to spend time listening to him. I think that will go a long way in helping him overcome a lot of what he has experienced.”
Greg is right! The kindness, respect, and honor afforded to Mr. Cummings when he presented the flag to him has brought hope and healing in indescribable ways. “There are no words,” Mr. Cummings said, “thank you for all you have done and for taking the time to do it! You have really lifted me up and changed my outlook on things. I will always cherish the memory of what you have done each time I look at the flag.”
On a side note, Arlene is making plans to coordinate an effort to recover Mr.
Cummings’ medals as well as resew an American Flag for him. Greg, who has been a part of multiple ministries over the years, is now involved with Voices of Valor. “I invite everyone to check out Voices of Valor on Facebook,” Greg said, “we will be introducing many opportunities in the future for people in the Guntersville community to serve Veterans who are in situations like Mr. Thomas Cummings.”
So, the American Flag that flew on six war-time search and rescue missions overseas is now permanently present on yet another rescue mission of a unique kind right here at home. Presented to Mr. Thomas Cummings folded and preserved in its own window box, the flag is now displayed with pride in his room at Marshall Manor. He admires it daily - not through eyes of downheartedness but with an endearing dignity.
This flag was flown in honor of Greg and Sherri Brackenbury during
Operation Enduring Freedom over the skies of Afghanistan. It was onboard Helicopter 91-26402 during 6 rescue missions in which all 6 lives were saved.