Richard Hyatt: Voter apathy no way to pay tribute to veterans

Special to the Ledger-EnquirerMay 27, 2014 

Cindy Hill Souther knew her husband's story better than anyone, and her comment was as accurate as a late-night sniper.

"When he came home, death came with him," she said on Memorial Day, two weeks after the death of Sgt. 1st. Class Charles Souther Sr.

He fought in Vietnam and he fought with the Veteran's Administration, and he found futility in both wars. All he wanted was the benefits he deserved for coming in contact with a deadly chemical called "Agent Orange."

I knew him as a teenager when we were hanging around the church gym looking for a game of basketball. The next time I saw him the ravages of war were systematically shutting down the organs of his body. Cindy gave him a kidney, but she couldn't give him everything and death seemed right around the corner.

He was living in a motorized wheelchair, and the only thing left was a frisky sense of humor and a faith that never flinched.

Charles died 13 days before we honored people who served, the same week that wrecking crews destroyed the Atlanta church that he loved as a child. He was 67 years old.

Many people that knew him as a friend later considered him a hero. In death he found the peace that a horrible war never let him celebrate. He was a casualty of that war as surely as those who died in an Asian jungle.

On Monday, Cindy posted a photograph of him in his Air Force uniform. He was so young and so innocent. His eyes had not yet seen what they would see and his body was still whole.

The day before that picture popped up on Facebook I heard a sermon that suggested soldiers don't fight for glory or monuments. They don't consider the possibility that someday their names might be included on a wall that honors the dead. They only want a better world.

Sandwiched between my friend's death and Memorial Day was Election Day 2014 -- a day we have the freedom to vote for the candidate of our choice.

But how many of us do?

Consider these numbers:

• Only 26 percent of Muscogee County's active voters cast a vote for mayor.

• Teresa Tomlinson got 63 percent of the mayoral votes.

• Teresa Tomlinson got 16 percent of the active voters.

• Teresa Tomlinson got 15 percent of the registered voters.

Pretty shabby. We should feel guilty that after people went to war to give us this right, three out of four people in our neighborhood didn't even bother to show up to vote for the most important office in town.

Sgt. 1st Class Charles Souther Sr. would be ashamed.

— Richard Hyatt is an independent correspondent. Reach him at

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