Hundreds of people lined Daleville Avenue and Hwy. 84 in Daleville in the damp cold to honor Ensign Joshua Kaleb Watson as the processional made its way from Dothan to Enterprise.
People began gathering along the route as early as 10:15 a.m. and the crowd grew larger and larger before the 11:15 a.m. arrival of the procession in Daleville. Many people that gathered were waving American flags. City of Daleville employees were some of the first on the scene with large American flags. Students from the third through the sixth grades at Windham Elementary School led by teachers and staff came across the school grounds to gather at the intersection. Many of the students were holding American flags. Several students held banners saying “Windham Elementary School supports you.”
Dr. Lisa Stamps, Superintendent of Daleville City Schools, thought it was important for the students to take part in honoring Watson.
“The Daleville City Schools paused solemnly Friday to show reverence as a heroic Wiregrass son passed through. The DHS JROTC lined the street donned in full uniform as the hero’s entourage came by. Windham Elementary School administration, faculty and staff walked our young students to the intersection to honor Ensign Joshua Watson.
“Our students felt the seriousness of this occasion, some showing tears. With hand over heart and holding flags and signs of love and support, they were silent with respect,” Stamps said. “I want our students to realize that this young man’s life is a selfless testimony to his dedication to his country and his shipmates. As a child of a career Navy family, I want our students to be proud of Ensign Watson and all our military heroes. As educators, we must teach the important lessons of patriotism, respect, service, honor, self-sacrifice, and love of country to all of our students. We will continue to educate them about America’s precious freedoms and ideals that heroes like Ensign Watson make possible for us.”
When traffic was stopped to allow the procession to pass the people stopped at the traffic lights exited their vehicles and stood to pay their respects.
City of Daleville Mayor Jayme Stayton was honored that so much of the community came out.
“It was such an honor to see so much of this community and surrounding area come together to support and honor our fallen hero and his family,” Stayton said.
Daleville Department of Public Safety Director Chief Allen Medley was thankful for everyone coming out and for the assistance from local communities.
“I just want to say thank you to everyone that came out today, it was really very emotional seeing our town showing the support for that young man. I also want to thank Fort Rucker and Clayhatchee fire department for the help they gave us,” Medley said.
For Ben Baker, Superintendent of Dale County Schools, the death hits close to home. According to Baker, Watson’s father, Ben Watson, teaches music for G.W. Long High School, G. W. Long Elementary School and Ariton School. He teaches at Long’s schools first semester and Ariton’s school second semester.
“The Dale County School System family celebrates, mourns and overcomes together. We mourn the loss of one of our teacher’s sons, an American hero that died in service to this great nation,” Baker said. “I ask that the Wiregrass community join the Dale County School family in praying for the Watson family in the days to come. God bless the Watson family and thank you Joshua Kaleb Watson for your service and sacrifice.”