By Dixon Hayes
TALLADEGA, AL (WBRC) - An unusual Memorial Day in Talladega has residents thinking of their friends, family, and neighbors who made the ultimate sacrifice in war. But many of them thought about one man in particular: Terry Lee Merritt, a 22 year old native of Talladega's Pines Park neighborhood killed in Vietnam on July 23, 1970.
Merritt's name was accidentally left off the city's Vietnam Memorial at Talladega's Veterans Park, when the memorial was dedicated in 1989. It was recently added to the granite marker and today, the newly edited marker was unveiled for friends of Merritt.
His name may have been forgotten 21 years ago, but longtime friends didn't forget him Monday.
Troy Pennington was a classmate of Merritt's, in the Talladega High class of 1966. Merritt was the class treasurer.
Pennington recalls the sad 10 year reunion, in which Merritt was missed.
"I know he would've loved being with us, we would've loved being with him, sharing his wit, his memories and sharing his big hug," Pennington recalled.
The memorial is located in the very park where Merritt and friends played so often as they were growing up. Friends like John Tinney recalled Merritt riding his blue motor scooter, playing football and even using the old Wham-O water toy "Super Slide," all in what's now known as Veterans' Park.
"Terry Merritt has always meant something to me, and this place that we're in today, helped shape so many of our lives over the years," Tinney recalled.
The day's activities included a video of Merritt's life, played at the Ritz Theatre in Talladega's main square, and even noted a song had been written about his life.