GAUTIER, MS (WLOX) - Imagine losing both legs and an arm in war when you are in the prime of your life. That's exactly what happened to Gautier High School graduate Anthony McDaniel back in 2010. A city-wide celebration is now in the works to honor a young marine who sacrificed his life for our country.
Gautier residents Larry Norwood and Abe Sherrod are friends with McDaniel. They said he was a leader as a kid growing up in Gautier, so they weren't surprised he joined the Marines after high school.
"We would joke around and I said, 'you have to be a tough man to go to the Marines,' and he said, 'Mr. Norwood, I am tough'," Norwood said.
McDaniel showed just how tough and courageous he was back in August of 2010. While on patrol in Afghanistan, he stepped on an improvised explosive device and the blast blew off both of his legs and one of his hands.
"Even though he was injured, I knew he would come back strong," Sherrod said.
After all the challenges McDaniel has gone through, several Gautier citizens said he needed to be honored with a special day in his hometown. So, they partnered with Gautier leaders and The American Legion Post 1992 to plan a big celebration.
"He has had notoriety on a national scale, but this is his hometown, and this is where he grew up at," Sherrod said.
Mayor Gordon Gollott agrees.
"To honor someone like him who is a hometown hero, is an opportunity to bring the citizens together," said Gollott.
The celebration will be held at Bacot Park where the group says McDaniel played sports.
"They are going to have face painting for the kids and free snowballs for the kids. Bring your tables, your chairs, your barbeque grills, and it is going to be a picnic day," American Legion Cmdr. Bill Whatley said.
South Mississippians are being asked to donate food such as hamburgers, hot dogs and chips. Monetary donations are also needed.
"You got a dollar, two dollars, anything to help our cause, come on down. If you don't have any money, come down and help us work. We don't mind that either," said Whatley.
The patriotic group said if everyone gives a little bit, it can make a big difference in honoring this hometown hero.
McDaniel currently lives in California, and he has plans to return home for the celebration. The celebration will be held at Bacot Park in Gautier, August 9, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
If you would like to donate food and or funding, please call Gautier's American Legion Post Cmdr. Bill Whatley at (228) 627-1887.