TALLADEGA -- On Jan. 26, family, friends and classmates of the late Justin Twymon met at the site where his body was discovered Jan. 8, 2018, and released balloons in honor of his birthday, Jan. 25.

Justin was a graduate of Talladega High School and, at the time of his death, was attending Jacksonville State University.

He was home visiting family and friends for the holiday and, according to LaQuitta Wallace, Justin's mother, had planned to return to Jacksonville the same week he was killed.

Ms. Wallace, family and friends further stated that Justin loved his family and friends, was an avid soccer player and a proud member of the ROTC.

As a matter of fact, when the balloons were released, the crowd of approximately 25 shouted, "Go Tree!"

“Tree” was the nickname given to him by the Talladega High ROTC commander. Justin had just joined the Jacksonville State ROTC at the time of his death.  

Ms. Wallace said the gathering and releasing of balloons really lifted her spirit.

Justin's sister, Miya Twymon, and uncle, Mark Wallace, were also present during the celebration, which was billed as, "Justice for Justin."

I asked one of Justin's friends what would help reduce gun violence amongst our youth. The friend stated, "Parents need to talk to their children more, and youths need entertainment.”  The friend further stated that some parents are aware that their underage child has a gun, and some even condone their child carrying a gun.

Below are a further comments from those in attendance:

Kendarius Ragland, "We used to argue about who was the best basketball player."

Rhiannon Hurst, "Tree had the kindest soul. The world was better with him in it. There will never be another like him."

Sloan Perkins, "Justin was a brother, and I miss him everyday, the best friend a guy could ask for."

Kiandria Phillips, "Justin was one of a kind. He was a sweet and respectable young gentleman. We love and miss you little cousin!"

Ragan Perkins,  "He was a brother to me, one of my best friends."

Kiara Dioubat., "I met Justin during my sophomore year, and we played soccer together. He was the tallest person on the team. He had a powerful kick. Justin was also smart."

Andrew Cheeks, "I met Justin during my sophomore year of high school. We instantly became friends. He showed me that because we had different skin colors did not mean we couldn't become brothers."

Ja'Quan Scales, "He was one of the first brothers I had growing up as an only child. We were more like brothers."

And, Justin Smith, "Miss you so much bro.  It's crazy what all happened, but I know you are in a better place. RIP brother.”

-- Maxine Beck writes about the African-American community in and around Talladega.