Former ANAD commanding officer laid to rest at Arlington

The Joel Denney family honored his request to be buried at Arlington Cemetery and said they are humbled by the respectful manner in which soldiers’ services are conducted.

The family of the late Col. Joel Denney laid him to rest among many of the nation’s finest members of the military, those buried at Arlington Cemetery in Washington, D.C.

On June 28, 1993, almost 25 years to the day he was interred, Col. Joel Denney retired as the Commander at Anniston Army Depot (ANAD), a job he held for two years after also serving ANAD as the executive officer for the commander from 1983-85. During that time, and during his retirement years, he served his fellow man, especially Calhoun Countians, by helping with several civic organizations, including Habitat for Humanity, the Berman Museum Board, the Military and Security Affairs Committee, the Alabama Military Stability Commission, Honor Flights for veterans, and others.

Prior to his years at ANAD, he was a soldier in the Vietnam War, rising to the rank of colonel during his 26 years of service. He made friends wherever he lived and worked. Also, everyone who knew him understood he was a family man. Denney’s engaging personality put others at ease and often inspired them to be their best.

Denney’s widow, Nancy Denney of Anniston, said he headed two Honor Flights to take area veterans to key sites in D.C. a few years ago. The two of them made the trip, which included a visit to Arlington.

“After that experience,” she said, “he told me he wanted to rest in peace there and said, ‘I can’t think of a better place to honor God and our country than to be in Arlington.’”

After his death in August, she applied to carry out his wishes in this regard and received, in February, notification that the service at Arlington was to take place on June 27.

“If you knew Joel, you knew how amazing he was and how he emulated what dedication to God and country meant.”

Longtime friends, Greg Potts, Nathan Hill, and Denney’s pastor, Roland Brown, were among the approximately 200 people -- a number from throughout the nation -- who attended the service. Hill said rain drizzled during the afternoon but stopped just before 3 p.m., when the funeral service began.

“The service was reverently done,” he said. “It was so respectful of the soldier.”

He described the interment as meaningful: a horse-drawn caisson was carrying the ashes, followed by a rider-less horse. Boots in the stirrups were turned backwards, a representation of a fallen leader facing back toward his troops a final time. Taps ended the ceremony.  

“The service gave me chills and filled my heart with pride,” said Denney’s son, Joel Carter “Jace” Denney Jr. of Peachtree City, Ga. “During the funeral, there was a little girl around eight or ten, walking around with her family; and she put her hand over her heart as we walked by. It was something that brought tears to all of our eyes.”

Members of the Alabama Corvette Club, a group that counted Denney a longtime member and former president, purchased red roses that were distributed to those in attendance.

“We each passed by the urn and laid our rose before it, which was very moving,” said Potts. “Many of us remember that red was Joel’s favorite color.”

Hill said the service was a fitting way to say farewell to one of “America’s and Calhoun County’s finest.”

Other family members attending the service were Denney’s daughter, Jennifer Scoggins of the Weiss Lake area of Cedar Bluff; seven grandchildren, Mitchell, Maddie, Mabrey, Marley, McCartney, Josie, Judd; and brothers, Hap and Sam Denney.

Email Sherry at sherrykug@hotmail.com.