They often are the forgotten ones — the children of men and women at war. “As I like to put it,” says Rebekah Lovorn, who grew up in Vicksburg and attended Mississippi State, “people notice the veterans in the wheelchairs — and rightfully so. But few notice the ones pushing those wheelchairs.”
Lovorn, a 2000 graduate of Warren Central High School, is executive director of No Greater Sacrifice, a nonprofit founded in 2008 and based in Washington D.C. Its mission: Fund the college educations of children of service members who have been killed or wounded in combat post-9/11.
And it’s happening. NGS has committed more than $8 million toward college educations. But much work still remains. Nearly 60,000 service members have died or been combat wounded since Sept. 11, 2001.
Retired Army Col. Henry Moak of Madison says he is “deeply moved” by NGS’ efforts, and he is helping bring awareness of the organization to Mississippi.
Moak, who works in D.C. for Homeland Security, is leading an NGS fundraiser Friday night at Jackson’s Duling Hall. Sid Herring, lead singer of The Gants — a 1960s rock band from Greenwood that the late Tom Petty once called "Mississippi's Beatles" — will perform.
In their heyday, The Gants toured with the British hitmakers The Animals. They played on the same bill as The Dave Clark Five and the Yardbirds. The Young Rascals opened for The Gants in New York.
The Gants’ version of the Van Morrison-penned song “Gloria” went to No. 3 on Chicago's hit charts, but their record label, Liberty, oddly refused to push it.
“When The Gants played in Jackson back in July (for Murrah High School’s 50th class reunion), I talked with Sid,” Moak says. “He told me, ‘I’d really like to do this again.’ I looked at him and said, ‘Well, you’re talking to the right guy.’ ”
Moak asked Herring about playing the NGS benefit. He immediately said yes.
Herring calls it “an honor” and is especially moved that the benefit will fall on Veterans Day weekend.
“We consider it a marvelous opportunity to express our support of our military veterans and their families who have sacrificed so much,” Herring says.
And just as they did in July, Moak and his band from back in the day — The Nurks — will perform and also back Herring. Johnny Freeman, who joined The Gants around 2000, also will participate along with Jimmy Perkins.
“I can’t even express how excited I am about The Gants coming back to Jackson,” Moak says. “The first time I saw them was around 1965 when they played (at the Mississippi Coliseum) in Jackson along with The Dave Clark Five.
“The crowd was crazy. The reception given The Gants that night was unbelievable.”
It’s a win-win night, Moak says, for those who attend.
“You’ll get some great music,” he says, “but I also want people to watch and listen to the short presentation about No Greater Sacrifice. I think that will speak for itself.”
Army Col. Tim Karcher’s family has benefitted from NGS.
Karcher’s outfit was on mounted patrol in northeast Iraq in 2009 when their vehicle was struck with an explosive.
“I thought I had two broken legs,” Karcher recalls. “Then I looked down and they weren’t there anymore.”
While Karcher, 26 at the time, was recovering in Walter Reed Army Hospital outside D.C., visitors from No Greater Sacrifice came to his room. They met with Karcher, his wife, Alesia, and their three daughters. They explained their mission.
“It was really hard to believe,” says Karcher, a St. Louis native who now serves as NGS’ director of outreach development. “I kept telling them, ‘No, my wife and I can take care of this.’ But they wouldn’t take no for an answer. And they’ve followed through on their promise.”
The Karchers’ oldest daughter, 22-year-old Audrey, graduated from Texas Christian University and works as an interior designer. Anna, 21, is attending Baylor University’s nursing school. Abbey, 15, plans to attend the University of Texas and study pharmacy.
“What I always tell people is that I signed on the dotted line to serve my country and do whatever they asked me to do,” Karcher says. “My daughters did not. Like all children of service members, they’re just along for the ride, whatever that turns out to be.”
Read the article in the Clarion Ledger by Billy Watkins