- Associated Press - Saturday, June 25, 2016

RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. (AP) - Staff Sgt. David Wyatt’s 8-year-old son told his grandmother he couldn’t look at the sign named after his father, because it made his stomach hurt. His grandmother and Wyatt’s mother, Deborah Boen, assured him she knew how he felt.

Wyatt was one of four U.S. Marines killed during an attack on two military facilities in Chattanooga, Tenn., on July 16, 2015.

When the gunman entered the building and started firing shots, Wyatt led the people working there outside. Then with the help of another soldier, he hoisted each person over a 10 foot barbed-wire fence to safety at an adjacent park. There were many civilians at the park.

Once the soldiers were dropped over the fence, Wyatt told them to take the people in the park to a place of safety. He remained behind to make sure no one was left in the building. Tragically, he was shot while searching the area for his fellow soldiers. Because of his selflessness and courage, Wyatt was posthumously awarded a Purple Heart.

“David was deployed several times during their lives and always came home,” Boen said. “It is hard to wrap your head around the fact that your daddy will never come home. We still grieve.”

The Courier (https://bit.ly/28PiUGU ) reports that the grieving may never stop for the family and friends of Wyatt, but his name will proudly be displayed on a street sign in his honor near M.J. Hickey Park and Russellville High School, likely forever.

A street sign labeled “David Wyatt BLVD” was recently set in place on the northeast corner of the M.J. Hickey Park parking lot just off East 16th Street.

“There is no way to bring Debbie’s son back,” Diane Roach, a close friend of Boen’s, said. “But I just think it means the world to her.”

The idea for the sign spurred off of a separate idea put forth by Roach.

“I got this idea to try and name some kind of trail after David,” Roach said. “I just wanted to do something and I knew he was a Scout growing up so I thought ‘Well, maybe we can name a camping trail after him.’”

She then mentioned the idea to Ron Rogers, a social studies teacher at Russellville Junior High who taught Wyatt when he was an eighth-grade student there.

“I came up with the idea but there are others who finished it,” Rogers said. “After his death when I got the news I was out driving around trying to clear my head. I drove over to the high school and something spoke to me. I thought ‘this street has no name.’

“I drove all the way through it to see if it had a sign. When I realized it didn’t, I talked to a few people and superintendent Randall Williams and asked if it was possible. He gave his blessing and I went to the mayor. He said ‘Have people email me to let me know there is support behind this.’ I sent the word out on Facebook and the mayor received several emails.”

“It was an important thing to do,” he said. “Not only was he my student, his mother is my friend. It is such an honor that he died a hero, and the street should be named for someone like that. Since it is at the high school, students for years to come will see the name and hopefully look it up and see how he died saving other people.”

Others who were instrumental in bringing the street sign idea to fruition include Madelyn Ginsberg, executive director of the Arkansas Community Foundation and Kurt Jones, Public Works director and city engineer.

“Madelyn Ginsberg contacted us and asked if we could name a street after Staff Sgt. David Wyatt,” Jones said. “I got with the mayor about it and we recognized the importance of honoring Wyatt. We saw the street didn’t have a name and it made the process flow much more smoothly. Once we decided on the street, it just became a matter of printing the sign.”

“Naturally we are proud of the sign,” Mayor Randy Horton said. “He had been gone for a long time but he still had connections to the river valley. It is an important tribute to him and what his family means around here.”

Wyatt’s mother said the location of the sign is ironic because of how much time the family spent in the area.

“When we first moved to Russellville I began teaching at Russellville Junior High,” Boen said. “I bought a house very close to that location and when David was small, along with his siblings, we would pass that same exact spot at least twice a day, going to work and coming home.

“It is just so ironic that the street sign is so close to where we used to live. He went to school from elementary all the way through graduating high school in the Russellville School system and for years we drove right by that same spot.

When the kids were little I would drive them to Hickey Pool and so he went right down that exact same street for years going to the pool. When he got a little older, I allowed him to ride his bicycle there in the same exact spot and then when he got a little older he learned to drive on that street.

Boen said when talk of the street sign began, she had no idea they would choose that one.

“Of all the places in Russellville to put a street sign,” she said. “That is just so ironic. Right there. The street we are so familiar with. I just couldn’t believe it.

“I was honored, very honored that they would think so highly of my son to put forth the effort to do this. We are just very honored and very humbled.”

Boen spoke of how wonderful the community has been to her family in more ways than the street sign.

The Arkansas Community Foundation is collecting donations to fund a scholarship in Wyatt’s name. The fund has reached $4,600 but has to reach $10,000 to guarantee its perpetuity.

“Once the fund reaches $10,000 the recipients will just get the interest every year for their scholarship and the $10,000, the principal amount, will never actually be touched,” Boen said.

Even though the $10,000 goal hasn’t been reached yet, Boen couldn’t wait for the scholarship in Wyatt’s name to begin being dispersed.

“I donated my own personal money so the boys could receive the scholarship,” she said. “It was so important to me that this get started and honor David.”

Typically the scholarship will be awarded to one person each year but this year there were two young men Boen could not decide between. William Taylor and Jake Vickers were this year’s recipients.

“The money I donated wasn’t quite enough to cover both boys,” she said. “An anonymous donor stepped up and contributed the rest of the money. Oh, what a blessing. I just cried and cried when I found out someone had done that.”

___

Information from: The Courier, https://www.couriernews.com

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