PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - It's a heartfelt farewell for Captain Andy Collette at the Jackson County Salvation Army.
"I've not got tears in my eyes, but I've got tears in my heart when an officer leaves," said Corp. Sergeant Major Billy Cribbs of the Salvation Army. "But I know when they come, I'm going to have them three or four years. And its hard to keep saying 'farewell.'"
But this farewell has an 11th hour twist. Instead of leaving Jackson County, Collette is leaving the Salvation Army. He resigned his post with the Salvation Army Friday to pursue a career at the Methodist Seashore Mission here in South Mississippi. He was set to relocate to Lafayette, Louisiana on Sunday.
"Today [Sunday] is a day where I transition from being Salvation Army captain, from being the Salvation Army officer here in Jackson County, to being the Chief Executive Officer of the Seashore Mission," he said.
He said he's called to stay and serve a community he's grown to love as his own.
"The congregation here when I came here their hearts were broken," he told the Salvation Army Congregation in his last address. "And they had hope. Just a little hope just a little glimmer. And the Lord worked, and we built from there."
He said when he and his family came to South Mississippi, he never knew how hard it would be to leave.
"We didn't realize how this community would grab hold of our hearts and grab into our lives, and its become a part of who we are," Collette said.
Many people in the community have embraced him also. In his last proclamation, Pascagoula Mayor Matthew Avera declared Sunday, June 21st 2009 "Captain Andy Collette Day, to honor Collette for his dedication to the community. Themen at Trinity House, an addiction recovery home where Collette ministers, are especially grateful that he'll now be able to continue his work there.
"It's a blessing that he's staying," said Clyde Cummins, who lives at Trinity House. "I mean, we were all kind of down about it, and it was a big good surprise for us that he's staying."
He may lose the Salvation Army uniform, but Collette said his mission stays the same.
"I stand ready to work with you and to be the man of Christ that I've been called to be regardless of the clothes I wear," Collette said in his address.
"I'm proud that I got to know him, and since he's staying I'll get to know him longer," said Cribbs with a smile.
Collette will do the same of type of work at the Seashore Mission that he did at the Salvation Army. He is set to start work Monday.
"We are sad to leave the army and we're sad to leave the people that we love here as far as not being able to be their ministers anymore," said Collette on behalf of his family. "But we are excited."