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Those who keep us safe: Clay Griffin

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(Photo courtesy Clay Griffin)

Officer Clay Griffin has been with the Vicksburg Police Department for over three decades, and in that time has been diagnosed and defeated cancer three times.

Griffin handles day-to-day operations for the Warrants Division. He is also a court bailiff and prison transporter. Griffin has been assigned the task to serve court papers, as well.

He has always had a passion to be in law enforcement. Following two ride-alongs, Griffin started his career in 1987.

“In my early 20s and in the ’80s you could do ride-alongs, and I did my first ride-along with Constable Glenn McKay,” Griffin said. “He let me see what it was like in the field. Then I did a ride-along with [the late] Paul Jabour. We went on several calls together and after that, I was hooked.”

Griffin, 57, is married and he and his wife share three children and seven grandchildren.

“Family is humongous to me,” he said.

Griffin found out just how vital family truly is when he was diagnosed with cancer for the first time in 2011. After treatment, he chose to retire from the police department in 2015.

Law enforcement, at this point, had rooted in his blood, and he could not stay away from the department long. After many doctors appointments and cancer scans, doctors cleared him to return to work in 2016.

Griffin remained cancer free for five years. As he made his return to work, his cancer made a return to his body.

“I went through chemo for the second time and beat it again for the second time,” he said.

In 2018, Griffin’s cancer returned for the third time, and once again the love he shared with his family, the Lord, and his job pulled him through. He has now been in remission for about a year.

Even with the difficulties of three cancer diagnoses, Griffin has remained committed to his job with the police department.

“I never missed a day of work,” Griffin said. “I would take off a few hours for chemo and come back. I never had to miss a day.”

Doctors were clear for Griffin to try to keep his life as normal as possible and to never give up hope.

“If you let yourself get down, then you lose all hope,” He said. “Then once you’re down and depressed, then your body becomes weak, so I had to remain strong and keep my body strong if I wanted to beat this.”

When asked what has kept him going for 33 years and three cancer diagnosis, he had one simple answer.

“My faith and belief in the Lord pulls me through,” Griffin said, adding, “I love to protect and serve the citizens of Vicksburg and change people’s lives in the process.”

News

Martin and Mosher inducted as ERDC Distinguished Civilian Employees

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Dr. William "Bill" Martin and Dr. Reed Mosher (photos courtesy ERDC)

The U.S. Army Engineering Research and Development Center will induct two former employees to the Waterways Experiment Station Gallery of Distinguished Civilian Employees Oct. 15 at 1 p.m. in the ERDC Headquarters Auditorium.

Dr. Bill Martin and Dr. Reed Mosher will join the ranks of more than 100 former employees whose significant career achievements left a lasting impression on both ERDC and the nation.

Martin and Mosher both served as directors of laboratories at the ERDC. Both pioneered technologies that proved to be life saving for American Soldiers and both left behind a remarkable legacy when they retired from federal service.

Each year, the ERDC inducts new members to the gallery, the highest honor bestowed to those who have worked at WES in Vicksburg.

Martin, a U.S. Army veteran, ended his 41-year ERDC career in 2013 as director of the Coastal and Hydraulics Laboratory. In that role, he led a $90 million research program that provided cutting-edge technology solutions to more than 500 projects around the world. Martin was also instrumental in updating the lab’s world-class facilities, including the development of a state-of-the-art Ship Simulator Complex, which allows engineers and pilots to simulate ports, harbors and maritime environments all over the world.

Martin is also remembered for being a leader in addressing complex groundwater issues on military installations, as well as for leading a team that performed emergency modeling of the Sava River in Bosnia-Herzegovina in support of the 1st Armor Division’s peacekeeping role after the Balkan War. His team provided daily river condition forecasts and answered engineering questions for more than 450 consecutive days, which led to the creation of the WES Tele-Engineering Program. Today that program is known as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Reachback Operations Center, which is located in Vicksburg and connects deployed troops in the field to subject-matter experts back home who can help solve engineering challenges for them.

Mosher, who spent 40 years as a federal employee, retired as director of the Information Technology Laboratory  in 2018. Under his leadership, the lab’s staff grew by 108%, becoming the second largest ERDC laboratory. He also oversaw the construction of a 66,000 square-foot expansion to the laboratory, and his vision for a new secure computing facility is under construction and scheduled for completion later this year.

Before his ITL role, Mosher served as the lead technical director for military engineering in the Geotechnical and Structures Laboratory, where he was also directly involved with assessments after some of the world’s most notorious attacks and bombings — Oklahoma City in 1995, the U.S. Embassies in Africa in 1998 and the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the Pentagon. He was instrumental in developing new technologies designed to protect soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan from rockets, mortars and other explosives.

Even after their retirements, both inductees are still involved with the ERDC today. Martin is a member and served as the 2019 president of the ERDC Alumni Association, while Mosher is the director of the Mississippi State University Institute for Systems Engineering Research, a partnership initiative with the ERDC.

 

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Education

Karla McHan experiences the unique challenge of leading her school in 2020

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Karla McHan and her colleague and mentor Mary Arledge on the first day of school this fall. (photo courtesy K. McHan)

When Karla McHan was looking for a challenge last year, she had no way of knowing exactly how challenged she would be.

McHan spent 22 years teaching social studies (mostly U.S. history but also world history, government, psychology and sociology) at Warren Central High School when she was offered the lead teacher position in 2012.

“I really enjoyed seeing education from a different perspective and loved the opportunity to work more directly with teachers,” McHan said.

The experience motivated her to go back to school for her master’s degree in educational leadership, something she had put off when her children were young.

“I decided it was time to venture out and knew I could bring my perspective as a longtime teacher to educational decision making,” she said.

A rare history position opened at Vicksburg Catholic School in 2016, and McHan could not pass up the chance of working with a man who had been the principal of her elementary and junior high schools when she was a student: Dr. Buddy Strickland.

“It seemed like everything just fell in place,” she says of making the move to St. Aloysius High School. VCS also offered McHan a unique opportunity to advance her career and more openly share her faith.

“As a practicing Catholic, I was excited about being in a school environment that so beautifully incorporates faith and love of God and neighbor in its daily activities.”

St. Aloysius is much smaller than Warren Central, and McHan said it was a great place to step into the role of principal last year. “The smaller setting helped create a stronger sense of family, and I got to know everyone better,” she said. “That’s important when taking on an administration role.”

As far as finding the challenges she was searching for, McHan got what she wanted in more ways than one in her position as the school’s principal. She experienced the typical new-principal challenges such as gaining the faculty’s trust and learning how to best utilize each staff member’s individual strengths, but then life threw her a curve ball.

”Hands down, the biggest hurdle I have faced has been COVID-19,” she said. “I think all new principals spend their first year in survival mode, but that moves into a whole different level when a pandemic hits three-quarters of the way through.”

McHan said that creating a distance learning program and putting it into action effectively was one of the most difficult tasks she has faced on any level of her education career, but it has been especially trying when coupled with the responsibility of every student and faculty member in her school.

“I considered all of the typical administrator duties when I was deciding to move,” she said, “but helping teachers and students adapt to distance learning while identifying the academic gaps that come with extended time away from the classroom was never on my radar.”

McHan credits her faith, the support of her family and the “fabulous faculty and staff at St. Al” for her success. She also credits the great relationship she has developed with Mary Arledge, principal of St. Francis Xavier Academy. “She is just an incredible mentor and supporter,” McHan said of Arledge.

McHan is clearly not a person to relax when the going gets good. In addition to constantly trying to better the distance learning processes, she plans to continue her education and pursue a specialist’s degree. Her plans also include more time with family and traveling with her husband, David.

“It may sound crazy considering the current state of educational practices, but I definitely foresee being able to relax a little soon,” she said, “and I can confidently say that because I know I have the backing of such a hard-working, supportive staff.”

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Those who keep us safe: Elwin Johnson

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From an early age, Elwin Johnson, Jr. has been taught to always help those in need.

“Without family there’s no me, Johnson said. “Family is my foundation, my support system.”

It was his family who instilled in him the value of working hard and giving back to his community.

Johnson is a homegrown Vicksburg native who has always admired not only the work of firefighters but more importantly the firefighters at the Vicksburg Fire Department.

“I had always grown up looking at the Vicksburg Fire Department as an establishment in Vicksburg that was extremely respectable,” Johnson said.

He started his career with the department as an emergency medical technician, or EMT, in February 2019. In a little over one year, the Vicksburg Fire Department has formed him into the person he has always wanted to be.

“I strive to be the best person I can be each and every day,” Johnson said.

Being new, Johnson has really relied on other guys in the department to help him along the way.

“Lieutenant Jabaris McDaniel was one of my biggest motivations when I first started, him and really all my co-workers have been there for me,” Johnson said.

As an EMT, Johnson has been faced with some devastating calls that have turned into life-saving efforts. At one incident, he recalls a man that was overwhelmed and how Johnson made him feel safe. He called Johnson his hero. After that incident, Johnson agreed with the man’s comment.

“We really are heroes, and he made me really feel like a hero that day,” Johnson said.

Johnson had a normal first year as an EMT, but since his anniversary with the department, things changed when COVID-19 hit. Johnson said procedures are a little different, but it has been business as usual for the Vicksburg Fire Department.

“We make sure we are highly protected when we go on calls to keep not only ourselves safe but the patients safe as well,” Johnson said.

Overall, his short experience with the department has been the start to, hopefully, a long career.

“I really enjoy being there for my community,” Johnson said. “I love being there for all the citizens of Vicksburg in their time of need.”

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