EHS, community honors Sgt. Todd McKeehan with stories, proclamation

Published 6:32 pm Friday, March 9, 2018

“He lived a full life in a short time,”

Sentiments from Mark LaPorte were shared throughout the day Friday during a special remembrance ceremony honoring the life of ATF agent and Elizabethton native Sgt. Todd W. McKeehan. Held inside Elizabethton High School, a handful of students organized the private ceremony for peers and friends and family of McKeehan to celebrate his life as part of the 25th anniversary of the ATF raid at the Davidian Ranch just outside of Waco, Texas.

Several guest speakers took center stage Friday, including LaPorte. A longtime friend of McKeehan, LaPorte flew in from Alaska and was quick to talk about McKeehan’s love of life.

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“I believe one reason he was so dedicated to this community was because he truly loved life itself,” he said. “He cherished the joy of living. He was friendly, kind to everyone and was willing to go on an adventure. We had a lot of adventures together.”

One story LaPorte shared was a cross-country ski trip.

“When you go on a big adventure, you need a good wingman,” he said. “And that was Todd. He was my best friend, and I miss him everyday.”

Another speaker that made the drive to Elizabethton was Chuck Hustmyre. Arriving from Louisiana, fellow ATF agent Hustmyre spoke about his time working with McKeehan.

“Todd was an American hero … he was a quiet, kind hero that trained bard and prepared himself to face whatever challenges came his way. The kind of hero that pushes every day to be better than he had been yesterday and even better tomorrow,” said Hustmyre.

During his three-year career with ATF, McKeehan was the recipient of two Special Act Awards for “significant contributions to major investigations,” according to the department’s website.

And his accomplishments will be forever enshrined in Carter County and at EHS. EHS instructors Ryan Presnell and Kenny Hardin announced the creation of a Criminal Justice award named after McKeehan. The award will be presented annually to a deserving senior. Carter County Mayor Leon Humphrey also issued a proclamation declaring Feb. 28 as Todd W. McKeehan Day.

Suzie Johns, EHS swim coach, and former teacher Ed Alexander also took moments Friday to share their experiences about their student.

While friends and family spent time honoring the former Cyclone, current students also provided words for the McKeehan family.

“One day we all hopefully follow our dreams in the way that he day,” said Cassidy Kaldy. “He has shown us all that one person can make sure an impact in the community.”

Kaldy and Kayla Vandeventer were key cogs in spearheading the event and served as speakers during the event.

“Todd walked the same halls we students walk every day,” Vandeventer said. “Todd learned in the same classrooms. He was a normal student here just like you and me.

“It was a tragedy that Todd’s life ended so short, but it would be an even bigger tragedy if we wasted the opportunity to celebrate and remember the legacy and impact Todd made in the lives of those around him.”

Vandeventer added, “I never met Todd, but he has made a difference in my life.”

Stories of McKeehan and the ATF raid reeled in the interest of students according to teacher Alex Campbell. Their interest helped lead the charge to hold the ceremony to remember McKeehan’s life.

And their work didn’t go unnoticed by family members. Todd’s brother, Brad, was quick to thank students. Cyclone pride flows the McKeehan house as Brad held the tassel worn by Todd following his graduation from EHS.

“My challenge to you is this: to live like you never see tomorrow, to love unconditionally, to protect those who can’t and serve those who don’t,” he said. “You don’t have to die to be a hero. Live like a hero. Live your dreams, follow your aspirations and do it now. Start today.”