The Along the Chaparral anthology project features stories and text sharing the lives and experiences of some of the thousands of individuals enshrined at Riverside National Cemetery. The contributions are written by K-12 students who participate in the collaborative project with the University of California Riverside, Riverside Unified School District, Beaumont Unified School District, Sherman Indian High School and other area schools and communities in Riverside County, through the U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs National Cemetery Administration Veterans Legacy Program for Riverside National Cemetery.
Inlandia Institute serves as a partner in this 2019 print edition work.
“He was so calm, and it took a lot to make him mad. In elementary school and high school, he would stick up for kids who were bullied. He was there for anyone who even needed to talk. He was my dad’s best friend. Joshua was, is, and will always be a son, brother, friend, hero.”
— Kaseylyn Strange, on Joshua Stephen Modgling
“I got to research and honor a woman that stood up for women, stood against social injustice and prejudice of that time. With her story, we honor not only this amazing woman, but all the women of her generation.”
— Addison Snider, on Janet Watson Ruel
Ava Marie Jones
by Amirah Elise Jones
When my baby sister used to open her toothless mouth in a wide smile, my heart would practically melt into hot liquid goo. With every squeal and giggle, I flushed with the pride of being a brand-new big sister. I couldn’t wait until Ava was older, so I could teach her everything I knew. For example, I’d teach her how to shoot a basketball, how to hit a homerun in baseball, how to be an avid reader of chapter books, and how to write creatively as if we were the next award-winning authors. Ava was always smiling. When Ava smiled, it felt like winter changed to spring again and the flowers had just bloomed.
Ava was born to her mother Aja and her father Josiah on July 7, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada, but only lived for seven months. She also had two brothers named Josiah and Jaxon and two sisters named Arie and Amirah. I am her sister Amirah. Josiah and I were born when Ava was alive. Josiah was one years old at the time and I was five years old when Ava was born.
Unfortunately, Arie and Jaxon were born after Ava was born. Since my sister Arie was born after Ava passed away, Arie is a “rainbow baby.” A rainbow baby is a child born subsequently following a miscarriage, still-birth, or the death of an infant from natural causes.
Ava sadly passed away on Valentine’s Day on February 14, 2013. When I heard the troubled news, I was heavy-hearted. It felt like someone took my heart out of my chest and threw it on the ground. I couldn’t’t even go to Ava’s viewing and I felt like the worst sister in the world. Even though I miss her, I have gotten better. I visit Ava twice every year. I visit her once on Valentine’s Day and again on her birthday. Ava will forever be in my heart, in fact, in honor of Ava, I use the number seventy-seven for everything. One of the sevens is for when Ava was born and the second seven is for how many months, she was alive. Ava will always be missed and never forgotten. She will forever be in my family’s hearts and in mine.
Kenny F. Stanton Jr.
by Chito Sayam Naphosaysavath
Captain Kenny F. Stanton Jr. first tried to enlist in the military after he graduated from Hemet High School but got rejected because of his childhood asthma and seizures. However, Kenny didn’t let that determine whether or not he could achieve his dreams of serving in the military. He reapplied without citing the childhood afflictions that hadn’t recurred for years, and soon, he was off to Army boot camp in Missouri.
Kenny spent a year with the 57th Military Police Company in Waegwan, South Korea, before his unit shipped off to Iraq in July. Kenny forged deep bonds with three other young soldiers in his unit and they had called themselves “the four brothers.”
While he was patrolling Baghdad, Iraq on October 13th, Kenny was killed by a roadside bomb that was placed in a hiding spot. Two other people were injured but Kenny passed away theday before my mom’s birthday. You see, Kenny and my mom were best friends in high school. Even though they were separated by life experience and physical distance, my mom still checked in with Kenny’s parents from time to time to see how he was doing and where he stationed overseas. It was during one of these calls that my mom found out she had lost her high school friend. My sister Iris was one when he passed.
Kenny loved writing poems, and he would always recite them to my mom. He wanted to use his military education to get his master’s degree so he could go back to be an English teacher. Growing up, my Mom has told me that Kenny was funny, nice, and could always be found outside playing football or wrestling. It’s hard to imagine a sensitive guy like Kenny striding back and forth with guns protecting his camp.
My mom said that Kenny always liked meeting new people and getting out to see new things. Sometimes, I wish I was born in an earlier year, so I could meet Kenny myself. I think we would have gotten along. I imagine him and I playing football together and having a lot of fun.
I want people to remember Kenny not only by his personality but how he succeeded in accomplishing his childhood dream of serving our country.
The Along the Chaparral anthology project features stories and text sharing the lives and experiences of some of the thousands of individuals enshrined at Riverside National Cemetery. The contributions are written by K-12 students who participate in the collaborative project with the University of California Riverside, Riverside Unified School District, Beaumont Unified School District, Temecula Valley Unified School District, Sherman Indian High School and other area schools and communities in Riverside County, through the U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs National Cemetery Administration Veterans Legacy Program for Riverside National Cemetery.
Inlandia Institute serves as a partner in this print edition work.
The Legacy Program is co-producing the edition for site availability.
John Lyman Whitehead Jr.
I can just imagine in the war guns blazing, siren sounds, planes crashed and crashing. Through an military aircraft’s radio, a voice commands, Air supports up and around!, calling pilots into action. John Whitehead Jr, known as Mr. Death, was the descendent of Jasper Davis and John Whitehead. John Whitehead Jr. took flight while being part of the Tuskegee Airmen Force. John Whitehead Jr was a very good man and was a dangerous opponent to his enemies. Very glad he was on our side.
John Whitehead Jr. was born on May 14, 1924 in Lawrenceville, Brunswick County, Virginia. John Whitehead Jr. attended West Virginia State College. I imagine that during his college years, John Whitehead Jr. passion for aviation grew. During or shortly after graduating college, Whitehead joined the United States Air Force and would begin a career, passion, and legacy as a formidable aviator that follow him for the majority of his life.
John Whitehead Jr. joined the United States Army Air Force Corps at the age of 19. He was first assigned to the Tuskegee Army Air field in Alabama. At Tuskegee, he excelled at taking flight and received pilots wings on September 8. While being a Tuskegee Airman, John Whitehead Jr. received the nickname, Mr. Death. John joined the 301st squadron, 332nd fighter group on March 1945. While part of the group, he flew 19 missions. He returned to the US in Fall.
John Whitehead Jr. completed his service as the rank of a Captain in WWII. John Whitehead Jr. was also a top gun commander in the war. Throughout his career in the Air Force, he served in three wars which were WWII, Vietnam War, and the Korean War. John Whitehead Jr. retired in 1974 after serving the Vietnam War. Later, he sadly died on September 6, 1992 at age 68.
John Whitehead Jr. should be remembered because he served our country very well. John was very dedicated to our country. He joined the Army Air Corps at 19 years of age, and served in 3 wars with incredible valor. John Whitehead Jr. deserves a great rest after all of his years in uniform and in three wars. Not only did John Whitehead Jr. battle in the war but outside of it as well. John Whitehead served as one of the first African American airmen in the U.S. Air Force. Before the unit of the Tuskegee Airmen was created, the Army had resisted using black men as pilot. In joining the Tuskegee Airmen, John Whitehead Jr. along with his fellow servicemen began paving the way for racial equality within the Army. John Whitehead Jr. is remembered and honored by his friends, family, servicemen, and country at the Riverside National Cemetery. May God give you the best of rests and enjoy the gold streets.