Very few of the residents of West Point ever fought in any kind of battle, even though more than half of the residents hoisted large Confederate flags in front of their homes or porches and the city's "claim to fame" was that a Confederate defense forced a Union Army unit from Indiana to retreat back north before crossing the Ohio at Bedford, several miles down river on the Indiana side.
Those residents who did join the Army were drafted, and later returned to West Point further angry at the black men they served with and the way that the liberal nation treated them upon their return. Those few men drank and talked every day at the VFW two blocks from the river.
One year, the VFW was flooded along with more than a quarter of the town and those fools blamed that on the black people too -- before they went to The Oil Spot to get some catfish or ribs before heading home.
Nate Martin enlisted in the Army and was examined in Louisville. When asked "Where you from, boy?" he stood and refrained, "West Point, the friendliest city in Kentucky, sir!"
Nate had a year of Junior ROTC at North Hardin High -- couldn't fit more years in between the track and the baseball teams. He was not a star in either sport but played as if some day some college scout would find him, offer him a college scholarship, and he would be on his way to glory. They gave him several tests to take and he scored high enough for the Army to offer him anything he wanted -- and gave him a large bonus, which he sent home to help ward off the lawyers and Robert Duvall, the tax assessor.
He chose to become an Engineer...a combat engineer. He learned how to drive all sorts of light and heavy construction equipment in addition to his military skills. He also learned how to build and blow up things as well. He advanced up the ranks quickly.
His mother sealed and tacked up newspaper clippings -- from the Elizabethtown daily paper because the weekly West Point Courier had no story, no photo on anyone Black living or doing anything in or around West Point since 1958. In that year, they showed a lynched and hung black man on the front page under a headline "We Got Him!" The man was killed because he was alleged to have stolen a sheep and several chickens within a two-week period.
As Albertha tacked up the clippings, even the West Point residents started to respect her son's skill in being such a good soldier.
"He's getting up there for a black kid..." they would say. And when her son would send her photocopies of the various military awards he received -- the Good Conduct Medal. Several Army Achievement Medals. The Army Commendation Medal. Something called the Sapper Badge -- she would overlay them in plastic and post them along the walls of The Oil Spot as well. People would comment about those too, saying things like "That certificate and ten cents won't even get you a smell of coffee!"
After September 11th happened, most of the nation pulled together as one. There were very little discussion on race, or color -- people were mad and they were all mad at the "ragheads" over there.
Most of the people in West Point had no idea where "over there" was. They referred to Afghanistan as "Raghead land" and later they gave the name "I racked" to Iraq, as in "When's your boy's coming back from I racked, Albertha?" The Martin boy, along with another boy from Muldragh, down the road a bit to the south, was both in Iraq during the first days of the War.
Every evening afterwards, after that last man left, full of black-eyed peas and cornbread, fat back and chicken, and sweet potato or chess pie, Albertha and her two girls would close and lock the doors and then get on their hands and knees and pray for Nate and the Phillips' boy's safety "in that land over there where they have no business being."