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Tuesday, Sep. 2, 2014

Togetherness helps family cope with loss of soldier

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

(Photo)
Vickie and Glen Hall of East Prairie discuss the two cars featured on the sign of their new auto body shop.
EAST PRAIRIE -- Like any family who loses a loved one, the Halls of East Prairie said they have their good days and their bad days.

Monday marked the one-year anniversary of the death of Army Spc. Blake Hall, who was killed with three other soldiers near Baylough, Afghanistan, when an improvised explosive device detonated near their Humvee during patrol operations. He was 20.

"I think about him so much, I feel guilty -- but when I don't think about him, I feel guilty," Glen Hall said about his son.

While the hurt doesn't go away, time does heal, Blake's mother, Vickie Hall, said.

"This time six months ago, I couldn't have talked about it. It took eight months to open the door to his room," Mrs. Hall said.

(Photo)
Pictured are front row, from left: Glen Hall and wife Vickie Hall; and back row: Trea Cade, Tara Cade, Tommy Cade and Coy Hall. Not pictured is Mary Oatsvall.
The Halls have always been a close-knit family, and they used their time of sadness to pull together more than ever before. In February, the Halls, along with their son, Coy Hall, 23, and daughter, Tara Cade, 25, opened Coy's Garage on Main Street in East Prairie.

"The family being together all the time helps," the couple said.

For the Halls, it was only fitting for the family to run an auto body shop together. Fixing and racing cars has been a longtime hobby for the family.

"They're all car crazy," Mrs. Hall said about her husband and sons.

When the opportunity arose to purchase the garage, the family didn't let it pass them by, Mrs. Hall said. Her husband always wanted to run an auto shop, and their oldest son has completed auto diesel school.

Tara Cade's husband, Tommy Cade, and son Trea Cade, can also be found frequenting the auto body shop as well as Coy Hall's girlfriend, Mary Oatsvall.

"Without family, you don't have much," Hall said.

And Blake Hall is as much a part of the garage as the rest of the family. Two of the cars he restored when he was a teenager -- a 1965 blue Valiant and a 1987 yellow Mustang -- are pictured on the front of the garage's sign. "He was nuts about cars," Mrs. Hall said about her son.

When Blake Hall was home for Christmas in 2004, he purchased the body of a 1948 Plymouth Coupe and planned to restore it from the ground up. Hall left in March 2005 to serve in south central Afghanistan.

It wasn't until after Hall's death that his family found out he had also served in Iraq.

"We had no idea he was in Iraq," Hall said.

The Halls said they think their son probably would've made a career out of the military; he'd re-enlisted three days before he was killed.

"According to his older brother, it's something he always wanted to do -- be in the Army," said Hall about his son. "He believed in it and he felt that strongly about it."

Blake Hall was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, Vicenza, Italy. Hall was awarded a bronze star and was just short of being a sergeant when he died.

Many lives were changed forever when Blake Hall died, his father said. "Everybody knew and loved him," Hall said.

The Halls received countless letters, cards, e-mails and phone calls from people in every state expressing their sympathy after Blake Hall's death. "I had no idea he did so much," Hall said.

And the family remains grateful to the community for its support following Blake Hall's death.

"The community was unbelievable and so good to us," Mrs. Hall said. At the time of Blake Hall's death, cars and trucks lined both sides of the street in front of the couple's home. When the young soldier was returned to his family nine days after his death, family and friends lined the streets holding candles at 2 a.m.

And in addition to East Prairie and Mississippi County residents at Blake Hall's funeral were people -- many veterans -- who drove several miles to pay their respects, Hall said.

The Halls credit their son for the community's generosity.

"It was Blake. It was him. Everyone knew him," Mrs. Hall said.

The couple described their son as plain-spoken and a hard worker.

"He was a clown. He loved to get people to laugh and aggravate them," Mrs. Hall said. "... Not a day goes by that he's not mentioned by somebody in this town."

Blake Hall's absence is very visible in the community as pictures of him are in place at city hall and at East Prairie High School. A display about Blake Hall is at the town's museum at the old high school building and the historical museum. A memorial scholarship was also set up for an East Prairie High School senior.

To commemorate Blake Hall's death, his family along with some students from East Prairie High School met Monday afternoon at the cemetery where they put up a flag pole with an American flag next to the soldier's grave.

"He made an impact on a lot of lives," Mrs. Hall said about her son. "We're proud of him for what he's done. I hope all of the other service men's and women's parents are as proud of them as we are of Blake."