Members of the Columbia community joined together Sunday to honor the sixteen servicemen killed during a plane crash in Leflore County and spread a little "HOPE" moving forward.
On July 10, 2017, 16 servicemen were killed when a KC-130 crashed in a soybean field in Leflore County. The plane flew out of Cherry Point, North Carolina on its way to deliver personnel and equipment to the Naval Air Field El Centro, California when it went down in Mississippi. 15 U.S. Marines and one Navy Corpsman were killed. painted Sunday at Chain Park will be sent to the crash site in a soybean field in Leflore County.
"It can change your life like it changed mine when we had the tornado," Foxworth resident Carlton Thornhill said.
Thornhill hosted the "Stars of HOPE" event Sunday at Chain Park. He said he got involved with the organization when the group traveled to the Pine Belt after the tornado in December of 2014.
Stars of HOPE began after the attacks on September 11, 2001. The disaster relief and community arts program aims to empower children (of all ages) to transform communities impacted by natural and man-made disasters through colorful art and messages of hope and healing.
Thornhill said he has already visited the site and dropped off some stars made in other areas, but hope the ones painted in Columbia will be a permanent part of the crash memorial.
"Today's will be a part of the permanent memorial in Leflore County," said Thornhill. "We are just waiting on the investigation is concluded and we can get closer to the site the Governor has mentioned the possibility of this permanent memorial site, but we will set up a temporary one."
Stars of HOPE has empowered 80,000 volunteers including school children, families, seniors, first responders, veterans, active military, partner organizations, and entire communities to paint inspirational words, messages, and designs on 1-foot wooden stars.
"Seeing the children, which is what the biggest part of this for. The parents are effected more, but the children can feel like they are doing something," said Thornhill. "And it's also for the children drive by the disaster site and seeing this, with a message of hope and healing, it makes a huge difference."
Thornhill is a representative for Stars of HOPE, but has also started a local chapter of called Hearts of Hope.