February 9, 2011 10:44:00 AM
Scott Colom - [email protected]
Omar Ballard inspires me every time I see him. His presence personifies the benefits of hard work and discipline, the perseverance of the human spirit, and the potential for greatness in our city. And Omar''s only 27. He''s just getting started.
Omar grew up in Sandfield. We''ve known each other since our days attending elementary school at Demonstration School. Even then, he had a quiet and unassuming demeanor. He was a hardworking student, who never caused any disruptions or distractions in class. And after one meeting with his parents you knew where Omar learned his character. His parents, Jestine and Earnest Ballard, had a relationship with him that can only be the result of attention and love.
Earnest recently retired from years working on the railroad and was the disciplinarian in the family. At their home, he responded quickly to negative conduct, and not just when it was Omar. He told my brother, Andrew, and me the correct way to behave on more than one occasion. In a recent conversation, Omar said this was a common practice in Sandfield at the time. "The whole neighborhood raised each other''s children" because there was "so, so, so much respect for older folks," he explained.
Earnest''s discipline was matched with his mother''s soft touch. She made sure Omar made it to every boxing, karate, and baseball practice/game/tournament in his schedule. Omar''s favorite memory from childhood is playing baseball at Propst Park, and that memory is largely the result of the dedication of his mother.
Earnest and Jestine''s love and discipline reaped benefits early for Omar. In high school, Omar earned the #2 rank for amateur kick boxing in the nation and won multiple Gulf State Boxing Championships and MS Golden Gloves. After graduation from high school in 2001, Omar decided to serve our country and joined the Marine Corp.
After this enlistment, Omar enrolled at East Mississippi Community College and started studying Physical Education and Health. Shortly thereafter, he realized his country still needed his service so he joined the Mississippi Army National Guard as infantry. A week after he enlisted, his platoon was activated to deploy to Iraq. While in Iraq for a year, Omar''s served as co-commander for an entry team responsible for capturing high target personnel.
When Omar returned home, he finished at EMCC and then transferred to the University of Southern Mississippi and started studying Sports Management and Business. In 2009, Omar was again deployed to Iraq, where his platoon performed convoy and route security. At times during his second deployment, Omar served as Assistant Convoy Commander and Convoy Commander. He''s proud that during both deployments his platoon suffered no causalities.
Since that deployment, Omar has worked at the Regional Training Academy in Camp Shelby and taught E5s basic Noncommissioned officer knowledge. He moved back to Columbus to teach ROTC at EMCC and Mississippi State.
During this time, while Omar made personal sacrifices to protect our country, tragedy hit home. Omar married Pamela Doss - another Columbus native - in 2008. Pamela had one boy before the marriage, Marceau Hogan, and they had two during the marriage, Omar Malik and Omar Jerrod. A week after Omar''s last deployment, Pam died from complications due to a miscarriage.
Raising his three boys has helped Omar cope with the loss of Pamela. He loves teaching them the discipline and the same work ethic taught to him by his father, along with making sure they go to every karate and boxing class like his mother did for him. Omar is also an entrepreneur. He has a small real estate company and continues to train at professional fighting, including boxing, kickboxing and MMA.
There are plenty of success stories like Omar''s in Columbus. I just happen to know his. Nonetheless, Omar''s success wasn''t an accident. There are important lessons to be learned and celebrated from his life: lessons about the benefits from having two active parents; lessons about discipline and love; lessons about selflessness and perseverance. And the more our city can teach and promote these lessons, the more stories like Omar''s will happen here.
Scott Colom is a local attorney. His e-mail address is [email protected]
Scott Colom is a local attorney.