By Laura Ann Sills - email
Hamilton, GA (WTVM) - Harris County High School is seeing green. Green ribbons litter the halls and are pinned to shirts of students and faculty in memory of JROTC Army Instructor Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Kee.
Kee passed away Saturday of cardiac arrest and had battled lymphoma for two years.
"When he was first diagnosed with cancer Colonel Kee told us 'It is what it is, you can let it crush you or you can adapt, overcome, and succeed.' So, I think as a battalion we are going to adapt to this tragedy, we are going to overcome and we are going to succeed," says Cadet Major Seth Bierman. Bierman was a part of LTC Kee's special detail.
Under the direction of LTC Kee the Harris County JROTC battalion received the Honor Unit with Distinction award and ranks in the top five in the nation.
The battalion is already planning a memorial for Colonel Kee. They want to construct something in the J-wing of the school that will leave students for years to come asking "who was Lieutenant Kee?"
"They are starting to meet and talk about things that they would like to do so that when they graduate their memory of him will still be left behind and that he will always be remembered at HCHS," says 11st Sgt Sutton, who taught with Kee at HCHS.
Kee will be remembered as a father figure that just wouldn't let you give up.
Heath Edwards is a leader in the JROTC acting as the Battalion commander. He was anything but speechless when it came to talking about his "second father." "If you were going into the military he would make sure you went to the military. And he was going to make you the best you could be. If you wanted to be the best trash man, he would give you what you needed, teach you what you needed to make sure you were the best trash man," explains Edwards.
Bierman remembers the first time he saw Kee, "I saw a baldhead guy walk in and that was Colonel Kee and I was kind of intimidated by him at first. But, the first day of class he told us everything in the world that he's done and he was just a great, great man, and he's my hero."
Their hero will also be remembered at the special "Dine Out" ceremony next week. "He would be sitting at the head table, but since he won't be there with us we are going to have a table set out for him with a picture of him and just things that we can place on the table that we can remember him by," says Edwards.
Harris County High's Relay for Life efforts will all be dedicated to the memory of Colonel Kee. The family has asked that in lieu of flowers, donations be given to Harris County Relay for Life.
The JROTC seniors say Kee's legacy will never be forgotten.
"He made me the soldier that I am and the cadet that I will always be. I will always be Colonel Kee's cadet," says Bierman.
Visitation is set for Wednesday from 6-8 pm at Striffler-Hamby. The funeral will be held Thursday at 3 pm at Park Hill Cemetery.