Mills' Memorial: Soldier's remains to arrive; Cadets hold vigil

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Examining an album of photographs at the memorial for Adrian Mills, from left, are Ross Williamson, David Kasulas and Royan James.

By W. WINSTON SKINNER winston@newnan.com The remains of Spc. Adrian G. Mills of Newnan are expected to arrive at Newnan-Coweta Airport sometime Saturday. Todd Walker of the local group of Patriot Guard Riders said Wednesday that the Patriot Guard plans to form a motorcade to escort the fallen soldier's body to McKoon Funeral Home in downtown Newnan. The funeral for Mills is set for 11 a.m. Tuesday in the chapel at McKoon's with burial to follow later that day at Georgia National Cemetery in Canton.
Mills' stepfather, Jeff Blehschmidt, has built a memorial to Mills at the family home, 29 Elaine Drive. He has invited friends and admirers to come by. The red, white and blue memorial includes photographs of Mills, candles and a box with paper for people to leave a message for the family. Floral tributes have also been left at the memorial -- ranging from a simple clutch of white carnations to a pot of yellow chrysanthemums and a red, white and blue arrangement with roses. There also is a Facebook page -- http://www.facebook.com/#!/event.php?eid=167667063319469 -- that is being maintained by Cassie McDonald, a friend of Mills and neighbor of his parents. McDonald said interest in the Facebook page has grown dramatically -- growing quickly from 600-2,400. "It's spread like wildfire," she said. "It's public, so you can see it. Anybody can add pictures to it," McDonald said. People have left messages from Iraq and Germany. There are "a couple from Korea," she said. "Some people we grew up with are actually stationed in Korea." McDonald is also encouraging people to light a candle on their porches at 8 p.m. each night through Tuesday in memory of Mills. The Blehschmidts have heard from many friends of Mills since his death. McDonald said a couple of the men who served with Mills in Iraq have been in touch. "They've been great -- definitely great," she said. Mills died of wounds suffered when his unit was attacked by insurgents using indirect fire. McDonald said four other soldiers were injured in the same attack. She said two are in intensive care and one had surgery. Another "was recovering from the injuries" at last report, McDonald. Mills' injured compatriots were reportedly sent to Germany for initial treatment, though some may now be in the United States. "It's so hard to believe it has hit so close -- one of our own cadets," said Rayda Wolfe, whose husband, Ron, works with the JROTC at Northgate High School. Mills was a 2007 Northgate graduate and an active JROTC cadet at Northgate. "He was fighting for our freedom," Mrs. Wolfe said. "He was always smiling," Dr. Therese Reddekopp, the school's principal, remembered. She described Mills as "a joy to be around" and "proud of his country." She added, "He was very proud to be in ROTC." "Adrian sure enjoyed it," his grandmother, Betty Miller, said of his involvement in the military program at Northgate. "He could let his hair down and have a great time. At the same time, he knew when he needed to be setting the example for others to follow," Ron Wolfe said. "That's just the kind of person he was." "He came to visit us at Northgate before going overseas," Reddekopp remembered. "Between one place and another, he'd stop to visit." ••• CADETS HOLD VIGIL AT MEMORIAL The current group of cadets at Northgate High School never marched in formation, sat in a class or attended a school assembly with Adrian Mills. On Tuesday afternoon, however, a group of them held a vigil at the home of Mills, who was part of the first set of JROTC cadets at Northgate High School. The cadets looked at photographs from Mills’ days at Northgate, shook hands with his grandmother and heard words of encouragement from his stepfather. Mills, 23, a 2007 graduate of Northgate, was killed in Kirkuk, Iraq on Sept. 29. His funeral will be held at McKoon Funeral Home on Jackson Street in downtown Newnan on Tuesday at 11 a.m. Burial will follow later that day at Georgia National Cemetery in Canton. Lt. Col. James Dorsey and MSgt. Ron Wolfe, who lead the JROTC program at Northgate, were at the home of Marie and Jeff Blehschmidt on Tuesday afternoon. Dr. Therese Reddekopp, Northgate’s principal, was also present, as was Wolfe’s wife, Rayda. Rayda Wolfe has been printing pictures of Mills to add to a tribute board behind the memorial. She added shimmering rolled bunting to the memorial just before the cadets began their vigil on Tuesday. The cadets formed a line in front of the memorial Tuesday, standing among military flags. Ron Wolfe escorted Betty Miller, Mills’ grandmother, as she walked down the row — visiting with each cadet. She often offered words of encouragement, and her eyes misted as the uniformed young people offered condolences for her loss. “I hope you’ll stick with it,” she told Zachary Sessoms. Jeff Blehschmidt addressed the cadets — and spoke with them one-on-one. “What you’re standing in front of represents the love I had for my son,” he said. He had advice for adults: “Love your kids every chance you get.” To the cadets, he added, “It goes both ways. Love your parents.” He spoke of the reality of being the parent of a soldier in the war zone. “You’ve got to lie down and go to sleep and wonder if you’re going to see them again,” Blehschmidt said. “The cliche — ‘freedom is not free’ — is absolutely true,” Blehschmidt observed. “My son paid the ultimate cost for that freedom.” Blehschmidt said he believes the United States is “the best country on the planet.” He added, “My opinion hasn’t changed on that — never has.” Blehschmidt raised his hand to his forehead after telling the students, “I salute every one of you.” Cadets taking part in the vigil were C/SMSgt. Drew Cox, C/LtCol. Clint Donaldson, C/Col. Zach Hatcher, C/TSgt. Royan James, C/Maj. David Kasulas, C/SSgt. Chelsea Larsen, C/Capt. Nathan Lei, C/SSgt. Evan Lyles, C/Ssgt. Robert Mabe, C/TSgt. Ryan O’Connor, C/MSgt. Zachart Sessoms, C/Lt. Col. Mary Simonton and C/Tsgt. Ross Williamson.

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