Jeramiah Hampton – Alleghany Veterans Service Officer

At 11:00 am on November 11, 1918, the guns of war fell silent in Europe.  For almost four years, soldiers along entrenched lines fought to a near stalemate.  In part because of technology that was advanced beyond military tactics of the day, World War I resulted in a staggering 38 million military and civilian casualties.  That number includes 11 million military and 7 million civilian deaths.  The carnage was such that when the Armistice of Compiègne went into effect on “the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” the event was marked as a day of observance around the world.  President Dwight Eisenhower signed a bill on May 26, 1954 that expanded Armistice Day to include all veterans.  The national holiday became known as Veterans Day.  It is a day set aside to honor all who have served in the armed forces.

What does it mean to “honor” those who have served?  Parades?  Ceremonies?  Statues and monuments?  Of course, all those things are ways we show honor.  Yet for some, showing honor has a more practical meaning.

Jeramiah Hampton is the North Carolina Division of Veteran Affairs service officer for Alleghany County.  He is responsible for assisting the approximately 1000+ Alleghany County veterans and their families with their military service benefits.

Many locals remember Jeramiah from his high school days.  He excelled in football, baseball and wrestling.  In his junior year he finished third in the state finals as a wrestler.  The next year, he moved toward the state finals ranked number one in the state in the 171 pound class.  He was talking with Appalachian State University (ASU) about wrestling in college.  His future seemed clear and certain.

Then two days before the state finals began, he injured his knee in practice and ended his high school wrestling career.  A long recovery was in store.  The coach from ASU offered encouragement and told Jeramiah to still consider college wrestling when his knee was healed.

So, Jeramiah plotted a new course.  He enrolled at Surry Community College with the thought of knocking out his general education requirements before heading to ASU.  But, he found that college life wasn’t for him and after that first year he was considering other options.

Both of his grandfathers served in the military.  Jeramiah recalled visits with the Marine recruiter when he was in high school.  So, in July of 2008, he enlisted in the Marine Corp’s delayed entry program.  He signed an open contract which meant he could be assigned wherever he was needed.  For Jeramiah, he hoped that meant an infantry assignment.

Jeramiah home from Marines

Jeramiah and brother, Jake – 2011

In December of 2008 he arrived in boot camp at Parris Island, SC.  Still an athlete, the physical training was tough but bearable.  He describes the most difficult challenge as dealing with the mental and emotional tricks played by the drill instructors.

Afterwards, Jeramiah was assigned to nuclear and biological chemical defense.  This led him back to the very place he joined the Marines to avoid – the classroom.  He was assigned to 2nd Marine Headquarters in Camp Lejeune, NC.  In June of 2010 he was meritoriously promoted and reassigned to the 3rd Battalion 9th Marines.  Jeramiah and the 3/9 were deployed to Afghanistan in 2010 as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.

While in Afghanistan, Jeramiah served as the battalion watch chief.  As watch chief, he was responsible for tracking patrols, events, and threats.  He split his time between administrative duties and going out on patrol.

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Memorial service for fallen Marines in Afghanistan

Jeramiah returned to North Carolina and was assigned to Camp Geiger’s School of Infantry.  There he served as a combat marksmanship coach to new Marines.

After his four year enlistment, Jeramiah returned to Alleghany County.  He took a job with the Alleghany Wellness Center and became a certified trainer in 2012.  He enrolled at Wilkes Community College (WCC) and balanced a full-time class load with his new job duties.  Formerly a marginal student, Jeramiah graduated from WCC in 2014 with a perfect 4.0 grade point average (GPA).  He is currently enrolled at Concordia University – St. Paul and is majoring in exercise science.  He is set to graduate in December 2015 and is anticipating another 4.0 GPA.  He continues to work as a trainer and conducts martial arts classes.

Some would define Jeramiah Hampton as an overachiever.  And that is exactly what the veterans of our community need as they wade through a river of bureaucracy.  They deserve someone who speaks their language and who can talk straight with them.

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Jeramiah Hampton and fiance, Teea Triplett

We sometimes ascribe superhuman traits to those who have served in the military.  And when we hear accounts of their deeds it is natural to view them as heroes.  While we should never downplay or dismiss those courageous acts and deeds, maybe we should focus more on who these veterans are.  They are sons and daughters; husbands and wives; and fathers and mothers.  They were farmers, mill workers, and students.  They were from big cities and small towns.  They were high school athletes.  They are truly representative of our communities.  We have 1000 veterans spread across Alleghany County.  This year at the “the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” reach out to one of these individuals and offer a heart-felt thank you.

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For information on military service benefits contact Jeramiah Hampton at 336-372-4850. Or stop by his office at 90 South Main Street, Sparta, NC from 8:00 am to 3:00 pm.

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from Google Maps

Cooling Off in the New River

As temperatures climb toward triple figures off the mountain, the New River becomes increasingly inviting.  Cool water welcome visitors with a variety of options.

canoes and kayaks navigate the New River

Canoes and kayaks navigate the New River

Clear, low water levels make for outstanding Smallmouth bass fishing.  Access for wading can be found at New River State Park, Farmers Fishcamp Road, and the Nile Road.  Wading anglers are encouraged to wear Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs) as water depths can vary greatly.  North Carolina and Virginia have a reciprocal license agreement for the stretch of river from the confluence of the North and South Forks downstream to the confluence of the New and Little River.  This allows anglers with a license from either state to fish this section of river.

Special bass regulations apply to this portion of the river.  There is no minimum size limit and no bass between 14 and 20 inches may be possessed.

A angler tries his luck near the bridge on Farmers Fish

A angler tries his luck near the bridge on Farmers Fish

Canoeing, kayaking and tubing offer a sure way to cool off on hot days.  Rentals are available at River Camp USA and New River Campground.  Both offer shuttle service for boaters.  They can tailor trips around skill levels and time restraints.  PFDs are required on canoes and kayaks.  Young boaters under age 13 must wear a properly sized PFDs while afloat.

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Canoes and kayaks await boaters at River Camp USA – Piney Creek, NC

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For more information about outdoors opportunities in Alleghany County visit http://visitalleghanync.com/ and www.ncwildlife.org

The Symphony Committee of Alleghany County

Culture is a term that is sometimes difficult to define.  A dictionary definition would focus on the collective beliefs, customs, and arts of a particular group of people.  A more layman definition is “the way we do things – most of the time.”

In Alleghany County, the arts culture stretches along a lengthy continuum.  Locally raised country music star Del Reeves and Bill Monroe’s fiddler, Art Wooten, anchor spots along that continuum.  A variety of old-time and bluegrass musicians are scattered up and down that line.  Visual artists craft beautiful pottery, baskets, quilts, paintings and stained glass panels.  Writers and poets craft prose that stirs our imaginations.  Local farmers add to the arts culture with symmetrical rows of Christmas trees, fields of pumpkins, and acres of rolling pastureland.

Reflective of that arts culture is an overall way of life that is self-reliant and self-sufficient.  Yet, we understand the necessity and value in coming together to accomplish things that can’t be accomplished alone.  On the surface it seems to be an odd mixture of independence and interdependence.  But, in fact, the mixture makes perfect sense.

A group of diverse, county women are working together to bring the symphony to Alleghany County.  Suzanne Mellow-Irwin, Rita Woodruff, Frances Huber, and Una Lindh have deep roots in the community and a strong desire to deepen the arts culture of the county.

Rita Woodruff, Una Lindh and Frances Huber

Rita Woodruff, Una Lindh and Frances Huber

This isn’t a new idea.  Some 60 plus years ago, Gene and Margaret Motsinger brought the North Carolina Symphony to Sparta.  Before settling in Alleghany permanently, France Huber recalls being invited to the symphony by the Motsingers in 1994.  When she returned to Atlanta, her city friend asked what exactly she did when in Alleghany County.  Conscious of the subtle accusation, Frances answered rather smugly, “I attended the symphony.”

Native residents recall the buildup during their school days leading up to the symphony’s arrival in town.  They listened to recordings and learned about the various instruments.  They remember a presentation in which a group of children sang along with the performance.

But somewhere along the way, the symphony stopped coming to Sparta.  Three years ago, this dedicated group of women decided it was time to bring classical music back up the mountain.  With the help of Charlie Scott of Alleghany Community Television, the group was put in touch with Western Piedmont Symphony.  Based in Hickory, NC, the company has brought their musical talents to Sparta for the past two years.

The mission of this endeavor is very much the same as when the Motsingers began this journey years ago: to expose school aged children to the symphony (grades 3-8 will experience a special afternoon concert); to reinforce the love of all music throughout the community; and to generate broad appeal for all artistic mediums.

It has been said that music bridges perceived gaps that separate individuals and brings people together.  Classical cellist Yo Yo Ma, bassist Edgar Meyer and bluegrass fiddler Mark O’Conner teamed together to blend classical and traditional mountain music, exhibiting how the two genres aren’t so far apart.

Here in Sparta, this group has set out to do the same.  Their desire is to see a full house of happy people leave the concert eager to experience the vast array of Alleghany culture -the way we do things around here (at least most of the time).  Taken collectively, it is all Absolutely Alleghany.

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Save the Date:

The Western Piedmont Symphony will perform at the Alleghany Community Auditorium on August 27, 2015.  The pubic performance begins at 7:00 pm. Seating is priced from $20.00 to a very affordable $5.00.

For information about helping sponsor this event, contact Suzanne Mellow-Irwin, Chair of the Friends of the Alleghany Community Auditorium at 336-472-4401.

Aaron Ray Tompkins and the NC Blue Ridge Farm School

Life can be tough for farmers.  When it’s considered rationally, pros and cons on a ledger, it seems impossible.  The weather is seldom perfect.  It is often too hot, too cold, too dry or too wet for farming.  Insects and wild animals impact farm production in ways that most non-farmers can’t image.  High prices one year often result in a production glut the following year, causing prices to plummet.

A 2007 report by the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project showed that western North Carolina is home to over 12,000 farms.  Over half of these farms are less than 50 acres.  The average size is 85 acres.  This is approximately ¼ the size of the average farm in the United States.  To maintain a competitive edge, regional farmers have to continually look for ways to produce their products in the most efficient manner possible.  To aid in this process, the North Carolina Cooperative Extension has developed the NC Blue Ridge Farm School.

The NC Blue Ridge Farm School is one of four farm schools in North Carolina this year.  Understanding the economic importance of agriculture both locally and statewide, the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners dedicated $100,000 to this program.  The program’s mission is to train “farmers to operate successful small-scale, economically sustainable farms.”  The seven month curriculum consists of one classroom day per month where students focus on business applications such as marketing, developing budgets, and writing business plans.  Another day each month is spent visiting working farms to see these business practices at work.

NC Cooperative Extension Agent Aaron Ray Tompkins

NC Cooperative Extension Agent Aaron Ray Tompkins

Leading this program in Alleghany County is Aaron Ray Tompkins.  Aaron Ray is a product of Alleghany High School and a graduate of Virginia Tech University.  After his college graduation, he spent six years teaching agriculture at North Surry High School.  He came home to Alleghany County two years ago and is currently an agriculture extension agent with the NC Cooperative Extension in Sparta.

Aaron Ray describes the Farm School as a program focused on transitional and new farmers.  The current class has 21 students that range in ages from 20-60 years old.  Many students are established farmers seeking to diversify and expand their businesses into areas such as agri-tourism while others are just beginning to farm.  A unique feature of this group is that 88% of these students have access to 50 or more acres to farm.  All will come away from the training with a detailed business plan that will help them become more successful entrepreneurs.

An agribusiness that is growing throughout western North Carolina is the local food movement.  Health conscious consumers increasingly want to know how their food is produced and to feel a connection to the farmer.  In Alleghany County, the market for locally produced beef, dairy and poultry products is strong.  However, the demand for locally grown vegetables currently exceeds production.  Aaron Ray points to the Alleghany Farmers Market and its expansion as an outlet that links farmers and consumers.

The connection of the Cooperative Extension, resident agents such as Aaron Ray Tompkins, local farmers, and local consumers all reflects a core principle of mountain life – that of a self-sufficient yet interdependent lifestyle.  Here, “local food” is not a modern movement and truly encompasses more than just food.  The NC Blue Ridge Farm School is simply a formalized method of teaching that has been passed along by generations of farmers.  Both are examples of neighbors helping neighbors and a way of life that is Absolutely Alleghany.