Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Plant City's suffering tempers the news of bin Laden's death

PLANT CITY — They celebrated on the streets of New York and in front of the White House, but on the thin boulevards of this small town, where funeral cavalcades for dead soldiers have become routine, there was no jubilation.

The people of this eastern Hillsborough County town of about 30,000, who have buried 10 of their own since the fighting started, say the death of Osama bin Laden is welcome.

"It's a long time coming," said Randy Holeyfield, 49, finishing a buzz cut at his barbershop, where each deployment steals customers.

"I'm glad he's dead," said Terry Barlow, 31, who stops work to watch the funeral processions slide down Collins Street.

"So glad," said Judy Dispennette, 65, leaning against a Statue of Liberty mural inside the Brooklyn Bridge Cafe.

But their relief is tempered.

The cost of finding Public Enemy No. 1, and all the auxiliary conflict he caused, is measured here in empty church pews and volleys fired at country cemeteries and full names tattooed across biceps.

It's measured in a list of war dead:

Kevin Akins, 29. James Phillips, 21. Ronnie Ginther, 37. Eric Lembke, 25. Marc Delgado, 21. Paul Orazio Cuzzupe II, 23. David Croft, 22. Cory Clark, 25. Peter Winston, 56. Jody Missildine, 19.

They left behind parents and children and boxes of medals to collect dust in a town that has supplied soldiers since its inception, a place where the bumper stickers say PROUD PARENT OF A SOLDIER and REMEMBER 9/11.

At least 11 men from Plant City were killed during World War II. At least 10 were killed during Vietnam.

Who knows how high the local toll will climb this time, in a war with no end in sight.

Inside a house on Joe McIntosh Road, Melvin Missildine, 63, caught the news on television and paid quiet homage to his grandson, Pvt. 2nd Class Jody Missildine. The boy who loved to curl up beside his Nana on the couch chased the GI Bill into the Army, then died in Tal Afar, Iraq, on April 8, 2006.

When they brought him home and drove him from the First Baptist Church to the cemetery, the cortege stretched a mile down Collins Street. The coin laundry emptied. A woman bowed her head outside China Palace. Men in work boots stood still by the Twistee Treat.

Now his cremated remains sit in a heavy metal box beside the fireplace. His purple heart is inside a glass case with letters from his friends. The goldfish in the pond he stocked for his grandmother before he left have grown fat.

"I'm glad we got him for all the people that died," Melvin Missildine said. "It sends a message. We're not going to stop. We're going to keep on going."

But, he said, the fighting is far from over.

"The Bible says there's going to be wars and there's going to be rumors of wars," he said. "One death won't end it."

"I don't see an end to it," said Ed Brown, on a smoke break at Taylor Rentals. "He was just one guy among hundreds fighting for the same purpose."

"War is inevitable," said Jody Wagstaff, 40, cleaning a bounce house across town. "There are going to be more terrorist attacks."

Wagstaff's son is advancing through explosive ordinance disposal school, getting ready for war, even as the toll here continues to climb.

On April 30, the Department of Defense announced another combat death in Afghanistan: a minesweeper, Marine Lance Cpl. Ronald "Dougie" Freeman, 26, Plant City.

Number 11.

Times researchers Natalie Watson and Carolyn Edds contributed to this report. Ben Montgomery can be reached at or (727) 893-8650.

Plant City's suffering tempers the news of bin Laden's death 05/03/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 3, 2011 11:41pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Review: Mumford and Sons shower Amalie Arena with love in euphoric Tampa debut


    There are releases, and then there are releases. And minutes into their concert Wednesday at Amalie Arena, Mumford and Sons gave Tampa the latter.

    Mumford and Sons performed at Tampa's Amalie Arena on Sept. 20, 2017.
  2. FEMA to open disaster recovery center in Riverview


    The Federal Emergency Management Agency said it will open a disaster recovery center Thursday in Riverview for Hillsborough County residents impacted by Hurricane Irma.

  3. Life sentence for man convicted in killing of brother of Bucs' Kwon Alexander


    An Alabama man who shot and killed the 17-year-old brother of Bucs linebacker Kwon Alexander in 2015 was sentenced to life in prison Wednesday, the Anniston (Ala.) Star reported.

  4. Remember him? Numbers prove Ben Zobrist is one of greatest Rays of all time

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The first foray back to the Trop by the best manager the Rays have had obscured the second return visit by arguably the second-best player in franchise history.


    Chicago Cubs second baseman Ben Zobrist (18) grounds into a double play to end the top of the third inning of the game between the Chicago Cubs and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017.
  5. GOP's new repeal bill would likely leave millions more uninsured, analyses suggest


    WASHINGTON — The latest Republican bid to roll back the Affordable Care Act would likely leave millions of currently insured Americans without health coverage in the coming decades, and strip benefits and protections from millions more, a growing number of independent studies suggest.

    Vice President Mike Pence listens as President Donald Trump talks to reporters about the Graham-Cassidy health care bill during a meeting with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi at the Palace Hotel during the United Nations General Assembly, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017, in New York. [Evan Vucci | Associated Press]