Bradley Central senior, Marine hopeful, dies in car crash
BRADLEY COUNTY, TN. (WRCB) -- Taylor Burns wants us to remember 17-year-old Caleb Harrod as the cousin who was more like a younger brother.
Fiercely loyal. And protective of his younger sister, Kelsey.
"We had each other's backs," he says. "When anybody would want to fight any of us, we were right there with each other."
He still can't believe the call he took Monday night.
"It's like a bad dream, I don't know how to wake up from it. I've asked people to smack me."
Caleb lost his life when his Dodge Neon ran off of Hunt Road in rural Bradley County. It knocked over a utility pole, and up rooted a foot-thick pear tree in front of a home.
"600 yards from my house," Taylor says. "It's going straight and it's like somebody pushed him off the road."
The Tennessee Highway Patrol's incident report doesn't list a cause for the crash. But the force of it was such that it catapulted a free weight inside Caleb's car about 20 yards, through the back window of a Jeep Liberty parked in the driveway.
Caleb Harrod wore his seatbelt, the Trooper's report concluded. It made no difference.
"I've lost a friend who wanted to be a Marine as long as I can remember," Taylor says. "Even when we'd run, he'd yell cadence."
His march toward that dream was well underway, in Bradley Central High School's Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps (J-ROTC).
"I think he saw it as a profession in which he could serve his country, plus, make a positive impact," 1SGT. Roger Wright says.
"He liked the physical training. He liked to get out there and get dirty."
For a senior seeking to graduate on time, it was an incentive to get back on track academically.
"He didn't like to stand out," Sgt. Wright says. "He didn't want everybody to notice him. I think he was humble in that way."
Sgt. Wright is certain Caleb's family knows, but he believes that this is worth repeating.
"They should be proud of the way he portrayed himself in school, the respect that he showed," he says.
"Because that is first learned, at home."
Services for Caleb Shae Harrod will be at 3PM Friday at the Ralph Buckner Funeral Home in Cleveland. His family is receiving friends from 4-8PM Thursday.
Tuesday evening, Taylor and a number of Caleb's friends held a memorial service at Checker's Drive-In on 25th Street, one of his favorite hangouts.
Thursday, Taylor plans to erect a six-foot cross where his cousin passed.
"The property owners already put up one cross, and they've told us we're welcome to plant this other, wherever we want," he says.
"I told them there may be 50 cars here, but we'll be there."