The attack claimed the lives of four Marines and a Navy sailor, but it wasn’t the violence of a battlefield or a distant war-torn land. It was Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Reporters and television cameras descended on the city for days, swirling headlines until the nation’s attention turned elsewhere.
And then … reality.
Chattanooga, a city of more than 170,000 people in the heart of Martin Marietta’s Southeast Division, was finally allowed to grieve.
Three of the five men killed were married and left behind a total of seven children under the age of 11. Searching for a way to help where he could, one man stepped forward.
Peyton Manning, a Super Bowl champion and MVP with ties to the city, worked with local and state leaders to establish the Chattanooga Heroes Fund.
The effort quickly drew the attention of the local Martin Marietta operation.
“We expressed interest in giving to the Heroes Fund right away because we wanted to do what we could to help the families,” says Mark Brown, plant manager at Chattanooga Quarry. “It’s run by the Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga. They always step in to do the right thing for people when events like this happen.”
Thach (left) and Brown (right) present Cooper with a donation on Martin Marietta's behalf.
Peter Cooper, president of the Community Foundation, says he and his team went to work immediately, making sure the widows had applied for the military and social security benefits to which they are entitled.
Next, the Heroes Fund, which stopped taking donations in September after reaching its $1 million fundraising goal, secured legal and financial counseling for each family, services that will be provided at no cost for as long as is necessary. The fund will eventually help each family with major purchases – such as a home, if needed – and will set aside money to help the children into their adult years.
In short, the fund is working to bring the families the stability of which they were robbed.
“It is not a cold check that we offer,” Cooper says. “Rather, it’s a warm support system that allows the affected families to grieve.”
Brown, who entered the mining industry more than 30 years ago after four years of service in the Navy, says Martin Marietta’s $5,000 contribution, a donation he presented alongside North Georgia District Senior Sales Representative Tom Thach, is a suitable gesture.
“When something like this happens, it’s important that we be there for the people left behind,” Brown says. “I’m glad that we stepped in and got behind the local efforts.”
The following servicemen died as a result of the Chattanooga shootings on July 16, 2015:
Sgt. Carson A. Holmquist, 25, U.S. Marine Corps
Spc 2nd Class Randall Smith, 26, U.S. Navy
Gunnery Sgt. Thomas J. Sullivan, 40, U.S. Marine Corps
Lance Cpl. Squire K. “Skip” Wells, 21, U.S. Marine Corps
Staff Sgt. David A. Wyatt, 37, U.S. Marine Corps