Saturday, April 12, 2014

EDITORIAL >> Saluting veterans: We can do better

Jacksonville, home to the 7,200-member strong Little Rock Air Force Base, which pumps more than $900 million into the local economy, couldn’t or wouldn’t — and definitely didn’t — support last Saturday’s “Welcome Home Vietnam Vets” parade.

Jacksonville, a two-time winner of the Abilene Trophy for its unique and strong commitment to the military, couldn’t or wouldn’t — and definitely didn’t — support a salute to veterans.

Jacksonville, home of one of the finest military museums in the region and the lead sponsor of the annual salute to Vietnam vets, couldn’t or wouldn’t — and definitely — didn’t make itself proud last Saturday.

First off, the parade was the shortest and sparsest in the three-year history of the event.

Where were the school bands? Almost everyone at Jacksonville and North Pulaski high schools has military connections, yet no cheerleaders, no marching bands, no drum line, no flag corps, no junior ROTC. No middle school or even elementary school participated.

Did they think it was not important to salute these heroes or maybe no one even thought to go and ask? Either way it gave the city a black eye.

On top of that, no Huff and Puff, no Sharon’s School of Dance, no fire vehicles and not a single civic club. Perhaps they were too busy or too inconsiderate to say thank you to our veterans. Or maybe these men and women of the military were just not important enough to give up a few hours on a Saturday.

Not only was the parade lacking, but so was the crowd, although the mayor and two aldermen were there. Good for them for adding dignity to the proceedings.

If those in the parade had candy to throw to the crowd, half the bags would have remained unopened. The event was advertised well, but very few people lined the streets. Surely that was a heartbreaking sight for the veterans and veterans groups marching, driving or riding in the parade.

The crowd was large at the museum during the remembrance ceremony after the parade quickly ended, but take away the active-duty military, the dignitaries, the workers and the veterans — leaning on canes, in wheelchairs and being assisted by nursing aides — there weren’t too many regular folks there to say, through their attendance, “We appreciate you, love you and thank you.”

Jacksonville, support yourself and your activities and good things will happen. Let the veterans and everyone know that you care and that your city is something special, so from this newspaper to all veterans: “We appreciate you, we love you and thank you.” — Rick Kron

TOP STORY >> Several Easter events planned

Several Easter events are planned in the area:

 Jacksonville Parks and Recreation is holding a free Easter egg hunt at 10 a.m. Saturday, April 12 at Excell Park. Children will be split up by age group. Ages are from walkers to 10 years old. In case of rain, all ages should go to the Jacksonville Boys and Girls Club at 10 a.m.

After the Easter egg hunt a family fun day will be held for the April Park of the Month. All ages are welcome. Food and admission is free.

For more information call 982-4171.

 The Jacksonville Boys and Girls Club and Jack-sonville Parks and Recreation will hold an underwater Easter egg hunt from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Monday, April 14 in the Jacksonville Community Center pool. The event is for children ages 3-12.

Children will take the plunge in pool diving for eggs and a chance to win prizes, Splash Zone passes and more.

Admission is $5 per child and $3 for any parent accompanying children who cannot swim.

The event is a fundraiser for the Boys and Girls Club. The public is invited to sign up for the event by calling 982-4171 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday Same day registration at 5 p.m. if space is available. Swimsuits are required.

 The Worship Choir of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville will present the Easter musical, “Jesus: Son of God, Friend of Sinners,” at 5 p.m. April 13 and 6:30 p.m. April 14. The musical will consist of music and testimonies telling of the love and grace of God.

The church is located at 401 North First Street in Jacksonville. A nursery will be provided. Admission is free. For more information, call the church office at 982-1519.

 The Beebe First United Methodist Church will hold an Easter egg hunt 5 p.m. Friday, April 18 at Daniel Park. It is open to all ages. Free hot dogs will be served after. If it rains the egg hunt will take place inside the church on North Main Street.

 CrossRoads Cowboy Church in El Paso will hold its first Easter service in the Two Bar Two Arena on Easter Sunday, April 20. Johnny Keys and his chuckwagon team will start the day at 8 a.m. cooking breakfast from an original chuckwagon. The service begins at 9 a.m. with Pastor Ron Riddle preaching on the resurrection.

There will be activities for the children, all cowboy style and music by the CRCC Band. For more information, call Becky Switzer at 501-230-7872.

 The Nixon Library, located at 703 W. Main St. in Jacksonville, will hold an egg hunt at 1 p.m. April 12.

TOP STORY >> Library celebrates National Poetry Month

Cabot’s library is celebrating National Poetry Month with several events throughout April.

A Blackout Poetry session will be held at 4 p.m. Thursday.

Blackout poetry, also referred to as “creative deconstruction,” involves taking an article or copy of any piece of print material and blacking out the words you don’t want to create your own poem with the words left over. This activity is intended for pre-teens through adults.

April 24 is Poem in Your Pocket Day, a part of National Poetry Month, everyone is invited to stop by during library hours, 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., to visit our Poem in Your Pocket stations.

Station one will feature material and instructions to create your own origami pocket.

Station two will feature our poetry exchange, where people can pick out a poem for their pocket and also leave a poem in exchange if they would like. This event is for all ages.

Other ways to participate in National Poetry Month include simply checking out one of our many poetry books or sharing your favorite poem with us on our Facebook page, Cabot Public Library.

For more information about these or other upcoming events, call the library at 501-843-7661 or email

TOP STORY >> Charity hub: Cabot Resource Center

Leader staff writer

The Cabot Resource Center offers free assistance to people in need by directing them to organizations or services so they can help themselves.

Deaconess Colleen Caldwell of Christ United Methodist Church opened the one-stop information hub in March at the old Larry’s Pizza store at 15361 Hwy. 5 next to Sonic.

“I heard people in church who were middle class or had a spouse who was laid off who had no idea where to look for help,” Caldwell said.

The resource center is a place to find information for those without Internet access.

Caldwell has file folders full of forms and brochures to help those seeking assistance find the help they need to get back on their feet and be self-reliant.

The Cabot Resource Center does not have food, clothing or money.

“I do not give a hand out but a hand up,” Caldwell said.

She wants to help people in the community live a better life, instead of putting food in their pantry.

“They get a self-pride that they did it themselves,” she said.

Caldwell can put people in touch with programs and services in Lonoke County for clothing, employment, financial, food, legal, medical, mentoring and parenting, military and veteran’s services, senior care, housing and transportation.

A copy of the Cabot Resource Guide that she developed is available for download from

Caldwell can help clients plan a budget and a financial analysis to find where they can cut non-essential purchases to make their money go further. She can assist with writing a resume, give tips for appearance and dress for a job interview and practice answering questions during an interview.

The resource center is a place for prayer if needed.

The Cabot Resource Center is open 9 a.m. to noon on Monday and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesday or by appointment. Caldwell can be reached at 501-529-0604 or by e-mail at

TOP STORY >> Group wants school board to run PCSSD

Leader staff writer

Nineteen people on Thursday evening aired their concerns about paying taxes and not having an elected school board due to the state’s recently prolonged takeover of the Pulaski County Special School District.

Among those who attended the first meeting of a new grassroots group at the Bill Harmon Recreation Center in Sherwood were term-limited state Dist. 41 Rep. Jim Nickels (D-Sherwood); Danny Knight, who is running for Nickels’ seat, and Sherwood Alderman Mike Sanders, a member of the Sherwood Public Education Foundation Committee that is leading the city’s effort to detach and form its own district.

Meredith Poland, a Clinton Elementary School parent who helped organize an effort to lobby against cuts to the technology and speech communications programs there and the laying off of home-school counselors districtwide, agreed to head the new group.

Nickels said there isn’t support for a legislative solution to the no-representation issue. But he suggested that the taxpayers focus on convincing the state Board of Education that PCSSD is not in fiscal distress. The board recently voted to continue the takeover for one more year.

Another Clinton Elementary School parent, Tina Lee, said she thought parents were relieved when the state took charge in 2011 to straighten out obvious problems. But those who are aware of the situation now are frustrated, Lee said.

The parent argued that the continued takeover is unnecessary because the last legislative audit of PCSSD was good.

Lee said the state Board of Education, according to its online packet of documents, had an outdated audit when they voted to keep the district under state Education Commissioner Tom Kimbrell’s control for another year.

Kimbrell has appointed a Community Advisory Board to help him with student discipline hearings, employee grievances and make recommendations concerning other actions.

Before Nickels spoke, Sanders announced that the feasibility required by state law would be released at the end of this month or early next month. But the alderman clarified that a detachment would take several years.

Nickels said city officials “missed the boat” by talking about the detachment rather than intervening in the desegregation proceedings.

The judge said Sherwood wasn’t a party in the 1989 case. Then he approved a settlement that allows Jacksonville but no other district to break away before PCSSD is declared unitary.

The representative also pointed out that the state law would have to change to allow a Sherwood detachment because, when Jacksonville leaves, PCSSD won’t have the 15,000 enrollment required for any part of it to detach.

Pam Fitzgiven, who identified herself only as a tax payer who lives in Sherwood, kicked off the meeting by asking those who attended what they had to say. She said, “Basically they can spend the money (and) make whatever cuts they want to without our input.”

Lee said, “We’ve seen nothing but cuts at our school for the last three years. This year the cuts are going to start impacting the children’s ability to learn. I think that it’s an uphill battle but that doesn’t mean it’s not possible.”

She also said the district is tearing the schools down “brick by brick” by making cuts until all they do is meet the minimum state requirements.

The district will lose $20 million a year after 2017-18 because of the desegregation settlement. But Lee pointed out there will be savings from not having to meet desegregation requirements, so PCSSD will have to cut less than that.

A home-school counselor, who received a termination letter because those positions are part of the cuts effective next year, agreed. The counselor said, “My job directly impacts student achievement, student learning…I have a caseload of about 110 but I service the entire school.”

The counselor asked to remain unnamed in The Leader, but told those at the meeting that home-school counselors make sure kids have supplies and other necessities, like food.

The counselor said, “When the district did this big cut a few years ago that said, you know, after three charges, students can’t eat, I have to make that happen some kind of way. Our kids still have to eat. They’re still on our campuses, and they’re still charged with learning. But I feel like we’re setting them up for failure.”

Sandra Eldridge said the district is laying her and other instructional facilitators off but allowing them to reapply for the same positions. The application process is two phases, and she said it doesn’t make sense to her.

“When does it stop? When do they stop playing with the lives of people?” the former Educator of the Year recipient asked.

Eldridge said she paid for and completed the professional development PCSSD required her to have. Then district officials chose not to reimburse her for it, she noted. Eldridge said she lost between $5,000 and $6,000 because of their decision.

Judy Lambertus and Fitzgiven said former administrator Linda Remele told teachers, during the district’s first year of Common Core implementation that, if they didn’t like it, they could go to Texas or Walmart. Remele has since retired, and she co-chairs the detachment committee.

Fitzgiven said at the meeting, “We have worked under that kind of thinking. Instead of building us up and making us feel like we’re worth something and trying to get us involved in what they’re doing, they have steadily, it’s like a divide and conquer.”

Former PCSSD school board member Gloria Law-rence asked where her tax money is going and how much of it would fund new Jacksonville/North Pulaski school buildings before the neighboring city detaches to form its own district.

Parent Chris Nash complained that students are using antiquated books. His son lost a book and the school didn’t have a replacement, Nash said.

Officials had to requisition one from another district, and Nash bought the book outright.

The parent said that means, “The (tax) money is not being spent where it needs to be.”

He told those at the meeting that school officials couldn’t say why they were using antiquated textbooks when students are going to be tested next year on the new Common Core curriculum.

Lee said that she, Nash and other parents have no option other than sending their kids to private schools or moving because PCSSD is exempt from the School Choice Act.

Sherwood will suffer if families move to cities in more desirable school districts, she pointed out.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot takes care of Mountain Home

Leader sportswriter

The Lady Panther softball team improved their 7A/6A East record to 5-0 with a doubleheader sweep over Mountain Home on Wednesday at the Cabot Softball Complex. Cabot won the first game 8-4, and dominated the second part of the twin bill en route to an 11-3 victory.

Cabot (7-6, 5-0) scored 10 of the first 11 runs in game two to lead comfortably the whole way, but the first game was much tighter. The Lady Bombers (4-6, 2-4) scored two runs in the first inning off of winning pitcher Lauren McCluskey, who pitched all seven innings, striking out two, and held the host team scoreless in its first at-bat to lead 2-0 after one.

The Lady Panthers, though, retook the lead with three runs in the bottom of the second. Senior right fielder Molly Wood led off the inning with a hard-hit single to the right-field gap and Hannah Montgomery walked two batters later.

Brandyn Vines loaded the bases the next at-bat with a bunt single, and with two outs, leadoff hitter Rachel Allgood walked, which allowed Wood to score and gave Allgood an easy RBI. The next at-bat, two-hole hitter Erin Eckert hit a line-drive single to center field, which sent Montgomery and Vines across home plate and put Cabot on top 3-2.

Mountain Home retook the lead its next at-bat with two runs scored in the top of the third, but the Lady Panthers added three more runs to their side of the board in the fourth to give them all the runs they’d need to get the win.

In that inning, Lane Justus reached base after her ground ball went through the Lady Bomber second baseman’s legs, and she scored the game-tying run the next at-bat on a stand-up triple by Allgood that soared to the fence in right field.

Eckert followed Allgood’s at-bat with a stand-up double, which drove in Allgood and put the Lady Panthers on top 5-4. Three-hole hitter Heather Hill grounded out the next at-bat, but Eckert was able to score during the play, thanks to a bad throw to third base after Hill was thrown out at first.

Eckert’s run put Cabot up 6-4, and the Lady Panthers added two more in the bottom of the sixth to set the final score. Vines and Justus both singled in that inning. Vines later scored from third base on a passed ball at home plate, and Eckert picked up her fourth RBI of the game on a sacrifice fly to deep left field, which allowed Justus to score with ease.

Cabot outhit Mountain Home 8-7 in game one, but the Lady Panthers were also the better team in the field as they committed just one error to the Lady Bombers’ four. Cabot continued its solid defensive play in game two.

“We want to try to stay ahead and that way everybody chases us,” said Cabot coach Chris Cope. “We made some great (defensive) plays. Our infielders made some great plays and kept our pitchers in the game, and that’s the way we’ve got to be, because they’re going to put it in play and we rely on our defense so much.”

Allgood, Eckert and Vines each went 2 for 3 at the plate in game one, while teammates Wood and Justus had one hit apiece.

Hill had the hit of game two, though, as she hammered a grand slam that put the Lady Panthers up 8-1 at the time. Montgomery got the win in the circle in that game. She threw all seven innings.

The Lady Panthers continued conference play yesterday at Jonesboro, and will play a nonconference game at home against Greene County Tech on Monday before resuming 7A/6A East play with a doubleheader at home against Little Rock Central on Tuesday. Both games start at 5 p.m.

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Bears shut down JHS

Leader sports editor

Though the conference schedule is not even halfway complete, the Sylvan Hills Lady Bears staked an early claim to the 5A-Central softball championship on Wednesday, beating Jacksonville 2-1 and 2-0 in a doubleheader Wednesday at Dupree Park.

That matchup has been circled on both teams’ schedules as the likely deciding factor for the top two spots from the league in the state tournament, which will be played at Dupree Park as well.

North Pulaski also has a competitive team, but the rest of the league is, in a word, bad.

“We knew this was the one that we couldn’t afford any big mistakes in,” said Sylvan Hills coach Mark Anderson. “We should’ve hit the ball better, but we played great defense as the pitching was great. That’s probably the best defensive performance we’ve had all year as far as making all the plays we had to make.”

Defense was especially crucial for Sylvan Hills in game one. Jacksonville got five base hits off Sylvan Hills’ usually dominant starting pitcher Michele Sorensen. She also walked three, giving the Lady Red Devils several scoring opportunities.

Sylvan Hills got on the board first in the top of the second inning without a base hit. Maddison Shelton drew a leadoff walk, stole a base and scored on two sacrifice grounders.

Jacksonville tied it in the bottom of the fourth. Zylah Richardson slapped a single down the third baseline, but was caught stealing on the first pitch of the next at bat. It proved costly. Kinley Burrows then walked, which was followed by back-to-back base hits by Kymberly House and Emily Lovercheck, with Lovercheck’s drive to left field scoring Burrows.

“I wish I had that one back,” said Jacksonville coach Hank Hawk on his decision to send Richardson. “She’s very fast, but I probably shouldn’t have sent her on the first pitch.”

Sylvan Hills reclaimed the lead and set the final margin in the top of the fifth with a two-out rally. At the top of the order, Sorensen tripled down the right-field line and Callie Cavender drove her home with an RBI single.

Briana Loyd also threw a five-hitter for Jacksonville and neither team committed an error. Sorensen got three of Sylvan Hills’ five hits in four plate appearances. She also added 10 strikeouts to tally on the mound. Lovercheck went 2 for 3 at the plate to lead Jacksonville.

Loyd struck out five and walked two in taking the loss.

The Lady Devils got just four base hits in game two to five for Sylvan Hills, but the Lady Bears showed patience at the plate and were more efficient with their opportunities.

Playing as the visiting team in game two, Jacksonville leadoff hitter Morgan Lloyd got a base hit, but was thrown out on a fielder’s choice that left Richardson safe at first. A groundout moved her to second and Burrows singled to put runners at the corners with two outs, but Sorensen struck out House to get out of the jam.

The Lady Bears then took the lead in the bottom of the first and never relinquished it. Sorensen drew a leadoff walk from House, and scored with two outs on a single by Cara Possa.

The game’s final run came in the third inning. Sorensen drew another leadoff walk, but was thrown out on a 5-4 fielder’s choice by Cavender. Ashley Broadway then walked and Possa got her second RBI of the game with a single to right field.

Sorensen again went the distance for the win, striking out nine and walking just one batter.

“She had all her pitches in game two that she didn’t have in game one,” Anderson said. “She had hurt her finger earlier in the week and put tape on it, so she didn’t have her grip to throw all her pitches in the first one. She took it off and just dealt with it in game two, and that gave her the ability to throw all of her pitches.”

House gave up five hits, walked three and struck out one batter.

“The girls were upbeat afterwards,” Hawk said. “I was a little surprised by that. The pitching was great and the defense was outstanding. I’ve been watching the 5A rankings and Sylvan Hills has been up there all year. These girls knew they had just played some solid softball. We have to get better on our base running and we could use a little more offense, but with the pitching and defense we’ve been getting, we feel like we can compete with anybody.”

Jacksonville, 9-4, plays North Pulaski on Tuesday at Dupree. Sylvan Hills, 11-4, plays at Benton on Monday and doesn’t get back to conference action until facing McClellan on April 24.

SPORTS STORY >> Red Devils win two in double dip

Leader sports editor

The top four baseball teams in the 5A-Central Conference faced each other this week, and a pair of crucial doubleheaders has left Jacksonville alone atop the standings, at least for the time being.

The Red Devils pulled off a 7-1, 2-1 sweep of rival Sylvan Hills at Dupree Park on Wednesday, while Pulaski Academy and Little Rock Christian Academy split their doubleheader on Tuesday. Despite the current league standings, Jacksonville coach Larry Burrows isn’t putting too much into Wednesday’s accomplishment.

“A sweep in April doesn’t mean very much,” said Burrows. “This tonight is just what it is, two really good wins.”

The Bears entered the series fresh off an outstanding trip to Orlando, Fla., where they hammered the baseball and utterly dismantled four 6A teams from the Chicago area. The offensive prowess on display in Florida was not there on Wednesday.

“I’m just going to give Jacksonville credit,” said Sylvan Hills coach Denny Tipton. “We had a lot of opportunities and just didn’t come through. And their pitchers did a good job of working out of those situations. They were just a little better than we were.”

Jacksonville took the lead in the hotly-contested nightcap with an unearned run in the top of the third inning. Blake Perry’s grounder to shortstop couldn’t be gathered in time for a throw. Perry moved to second base on a wild pitch. Two batters later with two outs, leadoff hitter Courtland McDonald fought a 0-2 pitch off to right field to score Perry.

The Bears tied it in the bottom of the fourth when Jacob White hit a leadoff single to center field, stole second base, moved to third on a sacrifice grounder by Charlie Roberts and scored on another by Hunter Heslep.

Jacksonville reclaimed the lead in the top of the fifth. Perry hit a one-out single and tried to score all the way from first base when Deaundre Harris doubled to the wall in center field. But Brandon Baoni’s cutoff throw from behind second base got Perry at the plate.

McDonald then hit his own double, again with two strikes, down the right field line to score Harris and set the final margin.

Sylvan Hills put up a serious threat in the bottom of the fifth, loading the bases with no outs, but Jacksonville pitcher James Tucker struck out the two and three hitters, and got White to fly out to center field to get out of the jam.

“That was just toughness,” Burrows said of Tucker. “(Derek) St. Clair got out of a similar situation in game one. I don’t think either one of them had their best tonight, but they’re tough. This team is tough.”

Tucker struck out the first two batters of the sixth inning to record four of his six strikeouts in his last two innings on the mound. He finished the game with six innings pitched, allowing five hits while fanning six and walking one. Kaleb Reeves pitched the seventh inning. He hit one batter and walked another, but got a strikeout and two infield pop-ups for the save.

Connor Poteet had a good outing as well. He went the distance giving up just four hits while striking out five and walking three.

McDonald went 2 for 3 with a double and two RBIs for Jacksonville, while White led Sylvan Hills with two hits and a run scored.

In game one, Jacksonville wasted little time in jumping all over Sylvan Hills’ staff ace Heslep. The first three batters got base hits with Reeves’ single scoring McDonald and putting Brandon Hickingbotham on third base. Greg Jones drove in Hickingbotham with a sacrifice grounder and Reeves scored on a fly out by Tucker.

Sylvan Hills scored in the top of the second on two base hits and two walks, but left the bases loaded as St. Clair ended up striking out the side.

The Red Devils added to their lead with four runs in the second inning, and ran the starting pitcher off the mound. With one out, Perry and Harris drew back-to-back walks and McDonald got an RBI base hit on a 1-0 pitch. Hickingbotham then walked and Reeves drove in two runs with a bases-loaded hit.

Marcus Long took the mound for the rest of the game for the Bears, and held Jacksonville to just one run over the next four innings. Heslep’s night ended after one and a third innings. Long threw five and two-thirds, giving up seven hits and one earned run.

Jacksonville got four of those hits in the third inning, but failed to score when Ryan Mallison was thrown out at home. The final run came in the fifth inning on a leadoff hit by St. Clair and an RBI knock by Harris.

St. Clair went the distance for the Red Devils, giving up four hits while walking four, hitting one and striking out nine.

Jacksonville added a wild 16-9 win over Hot Springs Lakeside on Thursday at Dupree to improve to 13-3 overall and 6-0 in league play.

Sylvan Hills, 10-5, 3-3, takes part in the Valley View tournament this weekend, and gets back to conference action with a doubleheader against Helena-West Helena Central on Tuesday in Sherwood.

Pulaski Academy is now 5-1 in the Central while Little Rock Christian Academy is 4-2. The Warriors also split a doubleheader with the Bears on March 18.

SPORTS STORY >> Badger ladies pound Wynne

Leader sports editor

The Beebe softball team earned a pair of 5A-East Conference victories on Wednesday, blowing out Wynne 10-0 and 9-0 in a league doubleheader at Gilliam Fields.

The Lady Badgers scored three runs in the first inning, four in the second and three in the fourth of game one to put an early end to the game, while starting pitcher Ellie Reaves threw a no-hitter, striking out 11 Lady Yellowjackets.

Two home runs by Nikita Howell highlighted the game-one win.

Two hits, a walk and an infield error led to Beebe’s first-inning rally. A base hit by Courtney Shepard scored Calah Hill and Howell, who had reached on a walk and base hit, respectively. Megan Davlin then hit a grounder to shortstop that was misplayed, allowing Shepard to score.

A hit, an error and a walk loaded the bases for Howell in the second, and she cleared them with a swing of the bat on the first pitch for a 7-0 lead.

Two base hits preceded her at bat in the fourth inning, and she cleared them again, this time on a 1-0 pitch, to set the final margin.

Howell added three more base hits and a walk in game two, to finish the doubleheader with a 1.000 on-base percentage by going 6 for 6 with two home runs, a double, a walk, six runs scored and 11 RBIs.

The top of the lineup did all the damage in game two, with the first four batters scoring all nine runs. Hill also had three base hits in game two and scored six combined runs.

The Lady Badgers, 14-2, 6-0, will host Paragould on Tuesday in another 5A-East doubleheader.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

EDITORIAL >> Consolidate at LRAFB

Pentagon officials recently told Congress they plan to move at least 10 new C-130Js to Little Rock Air Force Base as they consolidate their C-130 fleet, retire older C-130s and eliminate more expensive planes, such as the A-10 fighter jet fleet.

Air bases in Mississippi and the Carolinas will lose important missions, but the new austerity measures will benefit the Jacksonville base as the Air Force trims waste and cuts spending. Putting planes in a more central location such as ours will save the Air Force billions of dollars.

The new C-130Js would move here from Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi instead of going to Pope Field in North Carolina. Their congressional delegations aren’t too happy about that.

The number of C-130s at LRAFB could rise to 95, with 41 of them C-130Js and about 50 more the older C-130H models. We could still lose a dozen older C-130Hs and 60 reservists, but overall, the C-130 mission remains sound and could keep growing, especially with the Reserves getting the new planes and up to 700 airmen.

Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, which heard testimony from top Air Force leaders last Wednesday, said plans to beef up the Jacksonville base were “music to his ears.”

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh told the appropriations committee, “Little Rock is the home of tactical airlift to us.” Tactical airlift, delivering cargo and personnel into combat, “is one of the gems of the U.S. Air Force, and what we are trying to do is make it more efficient in ways that we can,” the general said.

Pryor told our John Hofheimer on Friday, “I’m glad we can all agree that Little Rock Air Force Base is truly a ‘gem’ — not only to our military, but to Arkansas at large.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who also sits on the appropriations committee and whose state will lose the A-10 mission, is not happy. “I understand, General Welsh, the dilemma you face. I mean, you didn’t pass sequestration, we did.”

This is what sequestration will get you, Sen. Graham. Listen to Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James, who told the committee, “We have too many C-130s in inventory. We’re looking to reduce the number — to keep the newer ones and retire the older ones, moving things around.”

“My vision is a smaller, highly capable, innovative, ready and a good value to taxpayers,” she added.

Do you want more some straight talk from the top? Lt. Gen. James Jackson said the Air Force was working on a comprehensive C-130 plan. “We have 11 reserve locations and want to find where we can consolidate. The number of C-130s assigned to reserve bases is being pared down from 104 to 66 and being located where we can get the most benefit.”

“Little Rock is the location that would be a good place to consolidate,” he said, noting it already had the C-130J and C-130H schoolhouses, the two active duty squadrons, the Air Force Reserve Squadron and the Arkansas Air National Guard.

There is additional pressure to find more savings. Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Dardanelle), who is running against Pryor, wants to cut the number of civilian employees in the military by 15 percent. That could mean 80 jobs lost at Little Rock Air Force Base — unless the mission here continues to grow.

Here’s hoping a leaner Air Force will mean a flightline in our backyard filled with 100 C-130s, ready to take off at a moment’s notice. Because when Madame Secretary James talks of a good value to taxpayers, we couldn’t agree more: LRAFB has delivered good value for 60 years, and the Air Force knows it.

TOP STORY >> Lonoke honors its best with eye toward future

Leader staff writer

Expanding boundaries with Remington Arms being the center of growth was the theme of the Lonoke Chamber of Commerce banquet at the Gina Cox Center on Friday.

Last year, Remington broke ground on a $35 million expansion, adding a 74,000-square-foot manufacturing facility to the grounds.

Brett Stovall project manager for the new facility said, “We are not relocating. It has been an outstanding relationship with Lonoke community.”

In 1969, Remington Arms built its $25 million ammunition plant in Lonoke, employing 1,200 people.

Stovall said Remington is in the process of receiving new equipment and hiring personnel for the new facility.

“We have a huge need for talent. To hire personnel for the new expansion we’ve gone to Houston, Texas; Norfolk, Va., and San Diego, Calif. We have career fairs set up in Jacksonville,” Stovall said.

“We are hurting for electricians, machinists and mechanics. We are having a hard time finding talented individuals. Our wage rates are between $15 and $20 per hour. It is a shame we have to look so far for talented employees,” Stovall said.

“We need to work together with the communities of Lonoke, Cabot and others, and develop a partnership or co-op to finding talented high school seniors and put them in mechanical trades and hire them on at Remington Arms. We are not going anywhere. We have about 1,300 employees; 57 have over 40 years of service,” Stovall said.

He said, for the expansion Remington is hiring maintenance specialists and manufacturing technicians.

The company has hired 20 employees for the new facility.

Stovall asked that those who know retired service members send them to Remington.

“Get them in touch with us. We need to get our hands on their resumes,” Stovall said.

Lt. Col. Dawson Brum-below, chief of safety with the 19th Airlift Wing at the Little Rock Air Force Base, informed the banquet attendees about the base and its community connections.

He said, during 2013, LRAFB air crews, maintainers and logistics personnel supported operations flying 16,000 combat missions in about 43 missions per day. They spent 13,000 hours transporting over 150,000 passengers and airlifting 73,000 tons of cargo worldwide. Around 250 LRAFB airmen are deployed around the world.

“None of those missions could have come off the way they had without the partnership we’ve got with our community. The partnership began in the 1950s when the local landowners donated the land to become LRAFB,” Brumbelow said.

He said Team Little Rock is made up of base agencies, nearby communities, active-duty soldiers, Reserve and Guardsmen.

Brumbelow said the strength of the community bond showed when a tornado on April 2011 cut a 5-mile path across the base from North Pulaski High School. He said, within 30 minutes, the mayors and civic leaders were at the base to offer a hand and show their support.

Honored during the banquet were:

• Citizen of the Year Leanna Rich, who was also outgoing chamber president.

• Educator of the Year was Phyllis Elam, Lonoke High School environmental and spatial technology facilitator. Elam has taught at Lonoke for 35 years.

• Order of the Oak Tree for individuals deeply rooted in community involvement went to retired farmer Joe Wilson.

• The Lonoke Acorn Award for those who start young and grow into a pillar of the community was presented to deacon John Harris Jr. He joined the chamber in 2012 and was a board member 2013.

• Lonoke High School senior Tori Lackey, a Future Business Leader of America member, was awarded the chamber’s $750 scholarship.

• Senior Katie Rhoden was awarded the $500 chamber intern scholarship.

• The Lonoke Quorum Court gave proclamations to the Lonoke School District for hosting the state’s 4A basketball tournament at the Gina Cox Center and for the Lonoke men’s basketball team reaching the semifinals.

TOP STORY >> Vets appreciate late thank you in Jacksonville

Leader staff writer

“See that young boy there? He must be what, 13 or 14, and he’s marching in this parade thanking us Vietnam vets. He has no idea why we were there, when we were there or even where we were, but he’s out here welcoming us home. That’s what makes it all worthwhile,” said Gene Collins.

Collins, a Vietnam Navy vet, stood at the curb on Main Street and watched Jacksonville’s third annual “Welcome Home, Vietnam Veterans Day” parade on Saturday.

The parade started on Main Street at First United Methodist Church and traveled westerly to the military museum, where the day culminated with ceremonies dedicated to the veterans and food for everyone.

Collins, who served in the Navy from 1971 to 1977, said the parade was a welcome change from the insults he and other veterans got on their return from Vietnam.

The parade started with the Little Rock Air Force Base honor guard. Not far behind was Vietnam Army veteran Doug Young in uniform and kilt, playing the bagpipes. Various military groups followed, along with beauty queens, girl scouts, cub scouts and renovated military vehicles.

Collins saluted them as they each went by and traded polite barbs with some, chiding some Army vets in the parade by saying “Navy all the way.” It was meant in respectful fun and taken that way. At the end of the parade, he gave a thumbs up to Rolling Thunder, a veteran’s motorcycle group, saying, “Give ‘em hell.

“Back when I was in, two tours in Vietnam was a rarity, but that’s what most of our guys in Afghanistan and Iraq have served, or even more. I feel sorry for them in 20 years if the VA doesn’t get it together right now,” Collins said.

Even though the parade was the shortest one in the three-year history of the salute to veterans, the ceremony at the museum attracted a crowd to hear Mayor Gary Fletcher proclaim Saturday as “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day” and President Obama’s resolution declaring the next 13 years — the length of the war — as a time to remember and support those veterans.

The parade’s Grand Marshal, retired Army National Guard Col. Mike Ross, agreed. He told the crowd of appreciative residents, active military members, veterans — with canes, in wheelchairs and some being assisted by nurses — at the museum, after the parade’s end, “we got the welcome part down pat now, but not the transition,”

Ross apologized for not being the former U.S. Rep. Mike Ross, “I know some of you are saddened that I’m not him, and others are happy.”

On the issues of veterans, he continued, “For Vietnam, we took citizens and turned them into soldiers and then had them go back to being citizens without transitioning them back. We are averaging 23 suicides a day among our veterans.”

Ross added that, back in World War II, about 99 percent of the population was involved in the war. “It affected everyone and all got it. But now only 1 percent of the population is involved. The other 99 percent don’t see the effect and don’t understand the needs of veterans.”

He said the problem is that, even though there are a number of veteran programs, they are not a coordinated, cohesive effort.

Ross told the crowd that it is tough training a soldier and tough fighting, but the toughest battle is when they come back home.

Young, who came down to Jacksonville from Shirley to be in the parade, sat through the ceremony with his bagpipe hugged to his chest.

He was a crew chief on a gunship and spent 26 months in Vietnam. Young had a number of close calls. “A little more to the left or to the right, or five seconds earlier or later and I may not be here today. I was lucky that I didn’t get seriously hurt or killed,” he said.

Young said he knows a lot of vets had a hard time when they came back to unfriendly welcomes, but he didn’t see any of that.

“When my time was up, one day I was in Vietnam and 48 hours later in rural Pulaski County — that was a big enough change right there.”

As far as the bagpipes, that type of music helped him through Vietnam. “I bought some of the records when I was in Australia for R&R and took them back to Vietnam with me. I still have them here somewhere.”

Young picked up playing the bagpipes about seven years ago. He was taught by an instructor in Conway and is part of the Prince Street Pipe Band in Little Rock.

“Everyone’s war was different,” Young said, “depending on what their jobs were and where they were.”

And jobs were something Ross pushed with his words. “We need to help vets at the local level, not with a program to fill out a job application, but with a call saying, ‘I’ve got a vet out here and I want you to hire him,’” he said.

TOP STORY >> Annual rite of spring

The 12th annual Cabot Strawberry Festival will be held April 24-26 at the Cabot Veterans Park Community Center.

“Strawberry cupcakes, chocolate-covered strawberries, strawberry jam; it’s going to be strawberry galore,” festival chairwoman Amanda Elizandro said.

The three-day event begins Thursday night with carnival rides. Armbands good from 6 to 10 p.m. Thursday only will be sold for $15 at the Cabot Chamber of Commerce and the Community Center. Arm-bands will be $20 the day of the event. The carnival will be set up through Saturday night.

On Friday, vendors will be open from 6 to 9 p.m. Music by Christian rock band Udicia will play from 7 to 9 p.m. on the stage outside.

Strawberry fest on Saturday will be held from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. with 65 booths inside and outside the community center.

Barnhill Orchard, Cabot Patch and Holland Bottoms will all have local, freshly-picked strawberries for sale.

The Berry Patch kids zone is a secured area that will have bounce houses, face painting, tattoo stickers and a petting zoo. Admission to enter the patch is $5.

The Game and Fish traveling aquarium will be at the festival too.

The Strawberry Festival beauty pageant will be held at 10 a.m. in the community center. Entry forms are available at the community center, the chamber of commerce and online at

The deadline to sign up is Wednesday, April 23.

For more information, call Gina Quattlebaum at 501-454-4038 or e-mail

Strawberry fest will have a dunking booth from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Scheduled are Mayor Bill Cypert, Central Elementary Principal Sherri Jennings, Eastside Elementary Principal Jill Fletcher, school board secretary Brian Evans, high school softball coach Chris Cope, Junior High South girls basketball coach Lori Harmon, assistant high school baseball coach David Smith, high school football player Jake Ferguson, Victory Baptist Church youth pastor Blake Martin, elementary P.E. teacher Coach “O” Jamie Oitker, police and firemen, state representative candidate Tim Lemons and circuit court judge candidate Ashley Parker.

The Strawberry Festival is the Junior Auxiliary of Cabot’s largest fundraiser.

“One-hundred percent of the proceeds go back to help the Junior Auxiliary of Cabot help students in the school district,” Elizandro said.

The festival receives funding from the Cabot Advertising and Promotions Commission.

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot girls stay unbeaten

Leader sports editor

The bats came alive for the Cabot Lady Panthers last Tuesday at Marion, and stayed alive on Friday as they clobbered West Memphis 17-2 to move to 3-0 in conference play.

The first six Lady Panthers to step to the plate scored and the first seven reached base safely. Things stopped abruptly, however, when the next three batters popped up in the infield.

Rachel Allgood got things rolling for Cabot by drawing a leadoff walk. Erin Eckert then reached on an error at third base and both runners scored on a double by shortstop Heather Hill. Another double by Kaitlyn Felder scored Hill, and Felder scored on a hit by Molly Wood. Macee Abbott then cleared the bases with a triple and scored on a passed ball to make it 6-0.

The Lady Panthers added three more in the very next inning on three hits and a walk. Hill started it with a one-out single and scored on an RBI double by Felder. Abbott walked with two outs and both base runners scored on a hit by Hannah Montgomery.

Five more came in the third inning, starting with a leadoff home run by nine-hole hitter Brandyn Vines. Allgood reached on an E7 and Eckert doubled to drive in the run. Hill then got another RBI single and scored when Felder reached on another West Memphis error. Abbott then got her third RBI with a single to left field.

West Memphis finally got on the board in the top of the fourth thanks to a two-run error by Cabot.

The Lady Panthers set the final margin and ended the game with two outs in the bottom of the fourth when they went up by 15 runs. Vines reached safely again, this time on an error in center field. Eckert drew a one-out walk and Felder got two more RBIs with a double to left field. She then scored on a single by Shauna Attendorn to put an end to the game.

Lauren McCluskey started on the mound and retired the first nine batters in order. The Lady Blue Devils got one hit and drew one walk before the error scored the base runners. McCluskey gave up just the one hit and one walk in four innings, striking out eight, including fanning the side in order in the third.

Cabot, 5-6, is scheduled to host Mountain Home in a 7A/6A East doubleheader today, and will travel to Jonesboro for a single league game on Friday.

SPORTS STORY >> Sylvan Hills splits with HS Lakeside

Leader sportswriter

Four goals by senior standout Abigail Persson led the Sylvan Hills Lady Bears’ soccer team to a 5-2 nonconference win over Hot Springs Lakeside on Monday at Bill Blackwood Field in Sherwood.

The Lady Bears got the win by scoring four of their five goals in the first half of play, and by holding the Lady Rams scoreless in the last 40 minutes of game play.

“Hot Springs Lakeside, traditionally, always has a great team,” said Lady Bears’ coach Nate Persson. “Right now, they’re easily going to be the No. 1 seed out of the South Conference. So we’re really pleased with how we stacked up.

“We understand that Abi’s going to have somewhat of an advantage because she’s a senior and four-time All-State player and everything like that, but what I’m most pleased about is our other kids stepped up and played pretty much equal against a very, very good team. And that’s exciting to see that the training is paying off.”

Persson scored the first goal of the game at the 37:28 mark of the first half, and gave Sylvan Hills a 2-0 lead with another goal, this one with 23:18 left in the opening half. Less than five minutes later, the Lady Bears took a 3-0 lead on another goal by Persson with an assist coming from her younger sister.

Freshman Grace Persson delivered a corner kick that Abigail Persson headed in from about five yards out, which gave the Lady Bears the three-score lead with 18:42 left in the opening half. Toward the end of the half, Lakeside scored its two goals, but Abigail Persson added her fourth of the game with 2:50 remaining, which gave the host team a 4-2 halftime lead.

Coach Nate Persson moved his star player to midfield for the majority of the second half in order to provide a defensive spark, and it worked as the Lady Rams (4-3, 2-0) failed to score again. It wasn’t just her, though, that made key plays on defense.

Senior goalkeeper Courtney Boutte finished the game with 15 saves, four of which came in the second half. Boutte had several key stops in the first 40 minutes of play that drew plenty of praise from her head coach.

“She’s a wonderful keeper,” Nate Persson said. “The first half was when she had the sun directly in her eyes, and they (Lakeside) have great forwards. They train them to attack the ball and the goalie. So the times she made the saves she had great pressure on her. I’m very pleased with our keeper.”

The only goal of the second half was scored with 11:28 remaining and came off the foot of senior midfielder Rachel Franco. Abigail Persson first took a shot that bounced off the Lady Rams’ goalkeeper, and Franco was there for the putback. With her left foot, she booted the ball in from about 10 yards out, setting the final score.

The boys’ game was about as exciting, but was a defensive battle the whole way. The Bears battled to the very end with the 8-1 Rams, but fell just short in the end, losing the nonconference matchup 1-0.

That game also included outstanding goalkeeping by the host team as junior James Waller was dominant at keeping the Rams at bay. The Bears just couldn’t overcome the Rams’ stellar defense, and Lakeside (8-1, 2-0) finally broke the scoreless game with 5:16 to play on a goal by senior midfielder Evan Munro.

Sylvan Hills did everything it could to match the goal scored, but could never break through. Still, it was a solid nonconference test that can only benefit the Bears as they resume their conference schedule.

“We’ve had a really, really tough nonconference schedule,” said Bears’ coach Sam Persson. “The last couple of conference games we really haven’t had much competition. Tonight it was really important for us to get a good nonconference game, treat it like a conference game, and let’s see where we’re at.

“I was real pleased. We had J.T. (Justin Espejo) go out early in the game with a quad injury and Philip (Wood), who’s really one of the heart and soul guys of our team, go out in the middle of the second half. It was going to be a challenge to see when the guys came off the bench if they were going to be ready to represent the team, and I was really impressed with that tonight.”

The Bears, 4-0 in league play, and Lady Bears, 9-1, 4-0, will resume 5A-Central play tomorrow at Little Rock Christian.

Both games are expected to be highly competitive and will have conference and playoff seeding implications on the line. The Lady Bears will play the first game at approximately 5 p.m.

SPORTS STORY >> NP ladies roll early, lose tight ones late

Leader sports editor

The North Pulaski Lady Falcons went 1-2 in three markedly different games as the host team of the Jae Lynn Russell Memorial Scholarship tournament. The NP softball team completely destroyed Mills 28-0, then lost a heartbreaker 7-6 to eStem Charter in the semifinals, and was soundly beaten 10-2 by Maumelle in the third-place game.

Playing for a chance to face crosstown rival Jacksonville in the championship game, North Pulaski gave up five runs in the top of the second inning to eStem on just two hits. There was also a hit batter, a walk and two errors that led to the Lady Mets’ big inning.

North Pulaski had taken a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first when Kelsey Seats was hit by a pitch and scored an error. But the disastrous second inning put the host team in a hole.

eStem went up 6-1 in the top of the third, but North Pulaski got that run back in the bottom of the third when Raigen Thomas sent a 3-0 pitch scorching into right field fora stand-up double. She then scored on a hit by Allison Seats, who was also swinging with a 3-0 count.

eStem scored another run in the fourth to take a 7-2 lead, but the Lady Falcons stormed back to tie the game with four runs in the bottom of the fifth inning.

Neiagha Thomas and Raigen Thomas sandwiched walks around a base hit by Anna Langrell that loaded the bases with no outs.

Allison Seats then hit an infield single to shortstop to score one run. Kelsey Seats drove in two more with a double to right-center field and Bailey Holt drove in the last run with a sacrifice grounder. The next two batters popped up to second base to end the inning.

North Pulaski held the Lady Mets scoreless in the fifth, but couldn’t get the bats going in the sixth inning when the tournament time limit put an end to the game.

Langrell was the only NP player with multiple base hits. Payton Mullen pitched for the Lady Falcons, giving up nine hits, including three to Callie Clement, while striking out four, walking none and hitting one batter.

In the opening game, North Pulaski batted around twice and scored 13 runs in the first inning off just four hits. There were also seven walks and three hit batters.

Two of the hits in the inning were by leadoff hitter Allison Seats. She started the game with a single to center field and walked in four batters later after an out, two walks and a hit batter.

The slow processional around the bases continued with three more walks before Seats came back to the plate and hit a grand slam home run to left field.

Kelsey Seats then tripled and scored on a fielder’s choice that left Holt safe. Two more walks sandwiched another hit batter before Neiagha Thomas drove in the final runs of the inning with a single to left field.

The second inning was worse, as the Lady Falcons sent 19 batters to the plate, scored 15 runs on eight hits while walking three times with five batters getting hit by pitches.

Starting at the top of the order again, North Pulaski’s first four batters got base hits before the first out was recorded.

The next three batters were hit, then one was walked, two more were hit and another walked before Madeline Graves got a two-RBI base hit. The second out was then recorded before another walk and three-straight base hits by Neiagha and Raigen Thomas and Makiyah Brown set the final margin.

Kelsey Seats threw a no-hitter with seven strikeouts over three innings.

North Pulaski, 8-4, was scheduled to host Mills again on Tuesday, but that game was canceled because of rain.

SPORTS STORY >> Lady Devils win tournament

Leader sports editor

They were a late entry, but ready nonetheless. The Jacksonville Lady Red Devils won the Jae Lynn Russell Memorial Scholarship tournament Saturday at Dupree Park. The Lady Devils beat Little Rock Christian 10-0, Maumelle 3-1 and eStem Charter 6-4 to take home the first-place trophy.

“Overall we played pretty well,” said Jacksonville coach Hank Hawk. “After about the second game, we had a team meeting because we were not playing as a team. Since then there’s really been no individuals. We’ve played pretty well since that talk.”

The championship matchup was somewhat of a surprise. Both teams pulled off mild upsets to get to the title game. Jacksonville beat Maumelle and eStem beat tournament host North Pulaski 7-6.

The Lady Mets jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning, but Jacksonville scored three in the bottom of the same frame.

The first three Lady Devils to come to the plate scored, starting with a leadoff home run by Morgan Lloyd. Zylah Richardson and Bailey Jones then hit back-to-back singles, and scored on sacrifice grounders by Kinley Burrows and Kymberly House.

Neither team scored in the second inning, but eStem added three in the top of the third for a 4-3 lead. Katlyn Cleveland got a leadoff single, followed by a Callie Clement walk two batters later. Jordan Mallard and Leah Allen then hit consecutive doubles to drive in the three runs. But the lead was short-lived.

Jones and Burrows got things rolling for Jacksonville in the bottom of the third with back-to-back, one-out doubles to tie the game. House then singled to score Burrows and put Jacksonville back in front. The Lady Devils tacked on another run in the fourth to set the final margin. Brianna Loyd got a leadoff single and scored on a two-out base hit by Richardson.

House got the win on the mound in the title game. She went the distance, giving up seven hits while striking out eight and walking just two. Jacksonville got eight base hits in the championship game, and against Maumelle in the semifinals, but weren’t as efficient in getting those runners across the plate against the Lady Hornets.

Both teams scored a single run in the first inning, and Jacksonville added two more in the third for the win.

House and Loyd split time on the mound, giving up a combined five hits.

Jacksonville’s runs in the first inning came when Richardson reached on a slap swing base hit to left field, and scored on a double by Bailea Mitchell. She tried to stretch it into a triple but was thrown out at third base.

In the third inning, nine-hole hitter Sarah Goodman got a leadoff base hit, and scored on a hit by Lloyd. Lloyd then scored on another RBI base hit by Mitchell.

In the first round against conference foe Little Rock Christian Academy, Jacksonville piled up 10 base hits and added six walks to win in four and a half innings. They got four hits and three walks in the bottom of the first for a quick 6-0 lead.

The inning was highlighted by a two-RBI double by Burrows that scored Richardson and Jones. Loyd also got a two-RBI base hit to finish off the inning.

Richardson got another hit and scored another run in the second inning when Emily Lovercheck connected with two outs.

Loyd and Keke Alcorn hit consecutive singles to start the third inning. Lloyd walked to load the bases. Richardson popped up to the pitcher for the first out, but Jones singled to drive in two runs. Burrows then hit a sacrifice grounder to give Jacksonville the mercy-rule inducing 10-run margin.

Jacksonville, 9-2, gets back to conference play this week. The Lady Devils, Sylvan Hills and North Pulaski all entered this week of league play with 4-0 conference records.

Jacksonville is scheduled to play Sylvan Hills today at Dupree Park. Look for details of that doubleheader in Saturday’s edition of The Leader.