Close family members and friends of the late Staff Sergeant Alex French IV, gathered at Georgia College during a Veterans Day Ceremony held Nov. 11. The university and Milledgeville community joined to pay their respects to the fallen soldier of Baldwin County with a new war memorial displaying his name.
Last summer, Georgia College refurbished the War Memorial at the corner of W. Hancock and Wilkinson Streets. It previously consisted of four monuments (World War I, World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War) a brick wall, and a prayer inscription on the ground. The university added the new Wars of Iraq and Afghanistan memorial and flame basin as part of an ongoing restoration project at the Old Courthouse, now owned by Georgia College. The Wars of Iraq and Afghanistan plaque was donated and installed by Dyer Construction Inc.
The Veterans Memorial provides a fresh, dignified place for people to pay their respects to local soldiers killed while on active duty.
“I hope, as visitors and citizens pass by this Veterans Memorial, they are reminded of the ultimate sacrifice so many men and women made to secure for us the blessings of liberty,” said Johnny Grant, director of Economic Development and External Relations at Georgia College.
French’s family first saw his plaque on Memorial Day.
“I think this monument is a great way to honor Alex and remember his sacrifice,” Shanoca said. “That was a very thoughtful and wonderful idea. I also love that it is located at a place with other fallen soldiers.”
Alex French, 31, was killed in Khost, Afghanistan Sept. 30, 2009, when enemy forces attacked his National Guard unit with an improvised explosive device (IED). He was the only soldier from Baldwin County to die in the wars of Iraq and Afghanistan.
French graduated from Baldwin County High School in 1996 and served in the U.S. Navy four years.He joined the 1st Battalion, 121st Light Infantry of the Georgia Army National Guard, deploying with the 48th Infantry Brigade to support Operation Enduring Freedom in May 2009.
His mother, Gwendolyn, feels it’s important to have a plaque in her son’s name.
“He did a great service,” she said. “Alex died doing something positive, and it benefited everyone in the community and the world.”
In addition to his wife, Shanoca, he left behind three children: Twins Alex and Alexis, age 15, and Madison, age 12.
“I miss a lot of things about Alex,” said Shanoca. “Some things that stick out the most about him are his presence, beautiful smile, jokes and laughter. He was such a family guy.”
French’s children often think about their father.
“I miss his presence,” said Alex. “I miss him so much, because we can’t have the father-son experience. I really wish that he was here to cheer me on when I play sports and just support me in all I do.”
“I miss his jokes and his piggyback rides,” said Alexis. “I really wish he was here to cheer me on when I succeed and make small and big advancements in my life.”
“I miss all of the memories that we could have had” said Madison. “I really wish he was here to cheer me on in life.”
Now, French’s children honor him by contemplating a future military career.
“I’m considering the military as an option,” said Alex. “What my father did for us was brave and honorable.”
“I am thinking about becoming a JAG (judge advocate general),” said Alexis, “to continue his legacy.”
“I’ve thought about being a medic overseas,” said Madison, “because my dad was in the military, and I’ve always wanted to take care of people and serve in the military too.”
Although they continued to deal with the loss of their hero, the family is thankful to now have a local place to pay tribute to his memory.
“I am forever grateful to everyone who had a hand in making this monument a reality,” she said. “The French family is thankful for each and every one of you for honoring Alex in such a way.”
“I would like to thank all who worked on this memorial for showing that my son was appreciated and is being recognized for that,” said Gwendolyn. “I’m happy that he gave a positive contribution to Milledgeville. It warms my heart.”