Thomasville Times Enterprise

March 14, 2014

Night of Appreciation: THS honors fallen veterans

Daniel Kramer
CNHI

THOMASVILLE —

The grass was the greenest its been all season. The air soothed the field with a crisp, almost California-like feel. The smell of sizzling burgers and cotton candy filled the air. Flags waves swiftly amid grace and honor.

The scene at Thomasville’s Military Appreciation Night on Friday was of picturesque virtue for a South Georgia baseball game.

The Bulldog faithful gathered at the baseball complex 30 minutes before first pitch to tribute two local soldiers, Navy Chief Petty Officer Blake McClendon and Army Spc. Shannon Chihuahua, who lost their lives in 2010.

McClendon, a 1998 graduate of Thomas County Central, entered the Navy that summer and was assigned to Navy Special Warfare, and later became a cryptologic technician, according to official Navy casualties records.

Among the awards McClendon received during his tenure inclue the Joint Service Commendation Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, the Navy Good Conduct Medal and the Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.

McClendon perished in a helicopter crash during combat operations in Afghanistan.

Chihuahua was the victim of an insurgent attack from small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades during his service in the Wataphur District of Afghanistan, according to an Army statement.

Chihuahua was serving as a medic with the 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), according to the report. He was tending to a wounded soldier when he was killed.

After an honorary national anthem featuring the Thomasville chorus and color guard, two ceremonial first pitches were tossed – one by Grey Smith, nephew to Chihuahua; the other by Jonathan Fallin, a close friend of McClendon.

For Kristen Chihuahua and her five children, it was a special evening to commemorate her fallen husband.

“It’s important to me that our community and country remembers the sacrifices that the families left behind still have to deal with,” she said. “My children will grow never know their father, so it’s important for them to see what he did, and the people he did it for.

“To know that people still care about what he did and what we have to go through, it’s important and good to see.”

The Bulldogs and Trojans followed the ceremony with a 9-8 shootout in favor of Early County. 

Each team had a pair of five run outings in the first two innings before Early ran away with another four in the third. Thomasville then held the Trojans scoreless the remainder of the game, but couldn’t muster the critical runs in the final inning despite runners on second and third base.

“Shootouts are fun, but it’s more fun when you’re on the winning side,” Thomasville coach Erik McDougald said. “Brooks can hit the ball. We just got a little whipped tonight.”

The Bulldogs fall to 5-5 (1-2) with the loss and look to rebound on Tuesday against Pelham.

“I’m a fighter,” McDougald said. “Until I have no breath left, I’m going to keep fighting. I hope the kids I coach take on that mentality.”