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Garden Club to Celebrate Veterans Day


Bill Kirby Jr.

Members of the Cross Creek Briarwood Garden Club Place a Wreath Each Veterans Day at the Blue Star Memorial Highway Marker at Freedom Memorial Park. {Contributed Photo, Cross Creek Briarwood Garden Club

If you are not quite sure of the meaning of Veterans Day, no one better to ask than a military veteran who has served his or her country in a U.S. uniform.

            Give a salute and an ear to (Ret.) Col. Walton Harris Walker III.

            Call him “Buck.”


            “Veterans Day is so significant because it is a day on which we, as members of our nation, join together as a nation to officially recognize, with a national holiday, honor, and demonstrate our appreciation for those members of our nation who have served in the uniformed military services – the United States Army,  Navy,  Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard – for their unique service to defend our nation against all enemies foreign and domestic,” says Col. Walker, 72, who is scheduled as guest speaker in celebration of Veterans Day, set for 11 a.m. Thursday at Freedom Memorial Park downtown, across from Veterans Park and the Airborne & Special Operations Museum. “This national holiday first began with proclamations and ceremonies as recognition of the ending of World War I in 1918, with the Armistice with Germany, at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.  In 1938, it became a national legal holiday, and following WWII and the Korean War, in 1954, it became Veterans Day to honor all military veterans who served well, whether they served in wars or not.”

            The ceremony will include a presentation of colors by the Fayetteville Independent Light Infantry Company, the national anthem by Patsy Brown, a “Toast to the Flag” by Michael Aycock of the National Sojourners, taps by Jamie Parker and laying of the wreath on the Blue Star Memorial Highway marker by the Cross Creek Briarwood Garden Club.

            “Our club has been laying a wreath at the Blue Star Memorial on Veterans Day since 2005,” says Sybil West, president of the event-sponsoring garden club. “We do this in order to continue the legacy of The National Garden Club. The National Garden Club started the Blue Star Memorial program in 1944 to honor the Veterans of WWII.”

            Club members include Rita Ruble, vice president; Wanda Albury, Kathy Allen, Gerri Arrowood, Joan Bowen, Kris Caison, Carolyn Carter, LaRue Cooke, Liz Edwards, Grace Henderson, Faye Highsmith, Billie Jackson, Teresa Johnson, Ruby Jones, Connie Michaels, Debbie Nepstad, Jill Oehme, Jacque Owen, Ginna Pugh, June Reichle, Shelton Shearon, Kristin Smith, Polly Strickland, Penny Maxwell, Carolyn Naylor and West.

            “I have asked Don Talbot to carry the wreath up to the Blue Star Memorial,” West says. “As the founder of the Freedom Memorial Park, I feel that is the least we can do to honor him with his vision for the park and the dedication to see it finished. Then the Cross Creek Briarwood ladies will join him for a picture.”

‘Looking From Above’

            I know all about Veterans Day.

            Mama taught me about it from boyhood. She spent 35 years working in civil service on Fort Bragg and she came to know many of our military from generals to buck privates who served. She admired their service. And as a late member of the garden club, Mama was there when the Blue Star Memorial Highway marker was placed on that cold day in 2005 at Freedom Memorial Park in the waning years of her life.

            I never pass that Blue Star Memorial Highway marker that I don’t think of Mama.

            “Don’t let us down,” Sybil West would remind me of the Veterans Day ceremony. “Your Mom is looking from above.”

            Not to worry, Mrs. West.

            I will be there.

            I know it is where Mama would want me to be. But of more great importance, it is where Col. Walker will be to remind all of us in this military town of where we should be.

Third Generation Soldier

            Col. Walker has a lengthy military lineage.

            His father, Gen. Sam S. Walker, was a highly decorated commander in Korea and Vietnam and stationed on Fort Bragg as an 82nd Airborne Division commander in 1969. Grandfather Gen. Walton H. Walker commanded the XXth Corps and led Gen. George Patton's 3rd Army across France and Germany. He also commanded the 8th Army in the Korean War.

            “This is so very significant today because it recognizes all military veterans, both those who served at least two years in The Cold War’s ‘peacetime,’ as well as those who were drafted or volunteered in WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and in the conflicts, which now include all the years in the Global War on Terrorism,” says Col. Walker, a 1971 West Point graduate.

            His own distinguished military career on Fort Bragg began in 1972 and includes the 82nd Airborne Division (1976-1978); the 5th Special Forces Group (1978-1979); and the 82nd Airborne Division Infantry Company Commander in a long list of military stations to include Military Intelligence; a stop at the Pentagon and back to Fort Bragg from 1998 to 2001 with the 18th Airborne Corps and in 1999 as Joint Task Force commander for humanitarian assistance in Haiti.

            “This recognition is especially important in two ways.,” Col. Walker says about Veterans Day. “First, it honors and shows our appreciation for those who served well, many of whom sacrificed much for it. It also demonstrates to our younger generations how important it is to us and how appreciative we are, as Americans, for those young people who are willing to serve in the military services. Especially now that the ranks are only filled with those who are willingly stepping forward as volunteers to take the risks involved, including possibly sacrificing limb and even life in training or in conflict, as so many have done these past 20 years since Sept. 11,2001.”

            Don Talbot, the park curator and a Vietnam veteran, offers a reminder, too.

        “This event will be a great time for visitors to see all the memorial monuments,” Talbot says, “of which commemorate our fallen military service members of the many conflicts and wars that the United States of America has endured.”

            Bill Kirby Jr. can be reached at bkirby@cityviewnc.com, billkirby49@gmail.com or 910-624-1961