Arlene Driskell’s nephew, Torre Mallard, typically didn’t attend her family’s reunions, but in 2007 she called to invite him anyway. To her surprise, he was quick to say yes.
“He met his family that he never met before and we just had a really good time. ... It was like God had told me ‘you need to get with Torre,’” Driskell said. “‘He needs to come and celebrate life with you guys.’ And not knowing that was going to be his last time with us.”
Torre, an Army captain, was killed by an improvised explosive device in Iraq on March 10, 2008, just a few months after the reunion. On July 7, the family plans to formally dedicate a park, built on their land at the intersection of Cobb Avenue and 20th Street, in Torre’s memory.
It will start simple enough. There will be a plaque dedicated to Torre in front of a pavilion. Tables will be placed underneath, and behind the pavilion will sit a barbecue grill. Driskell said the family will add two bathrooms and a small kitchen once they find the money.
At first, only families in the Lloyd Quarters community will be able to book the park for a small upkeep fee. It’s possible a nonprofit will eventually be created to oversee the park. Driskell said the family will open the park up for everyone once they figure out the logistics.
“Mainly we want the community to know that there was a guy that died 10 years ago that you probably never knew,” Driskell said. “That he died and he was from here. He has a ton of family that lives here in Anniston.”
Torre’s family later learned he wasn’t supposed to be on patrol with his armored cavalry unit the day he died, but he volunteered to replace someone else who had fallen ill.
Torre’s father, Mose Mallard III wasn’t surprised his son stepped up the plate. He knew the type of man his son was and, as a retired master sergeant, he knew the bonds formed by service.
“I don’t think that was something he kind of hesitated with or contemplated with or got upset about,” he said. “I think that being in the military has the brotherhood type thing. ... So I don’t think he was doing it to be heroic.”
Driskell said she thinks of Torre every single day. She has a picture of him in every room of her house.
When Torre’s grandad, Mose Mallard Jr., thinks back he remembers keeping Torre for a week at a time during his visits. He can’t help but smile at the memory of racing his grandson around his front yard. Just down the street, maybe 50 yards away, sits the empty lot the family will turn into the park.
“I didn’t want ’em to put it right there. ... Because see he fits in my heart real deep,” Mallard said. “I hate to walk out that door and look at it every morning. So I say ‘can you wait until I retire to Maple Grove,” he said, referring to the cemetery where he plans to be buried.
Torre’s parents live in Virginia now, but they still return to Anniston at least once a year. This year’s trip back to the town they grew up in might feel different with the park dedication.
“It will be an emotional time and it will be a hard time,” his father said. “But at the same time it will be a joyful time.”