A crowd gathered for the unveiling of the long-awaited veterans memorial in Wadesboro City Park on April 27.
The memorial took nearly two years of active planning, Brenda Parker, one of the key organizers, said. She recruited Kenny Lee, vice president of the Veterans Council, to help her with the memorial.
“I volunteered for this because it has been talked about and talked about,” Parker said. “I asked Kenny to come on board, and he did, and we worked on this thing.”
The two visited several sites and spent a good deal of time planning before approaching the city council and asking for its blessing to use space in the park, and the council agreed.
“The council just graciously left us alone and let us work, so we were grateful for that,” Parker said.
Lee designed the site and Parker handled the landscaping. Ken Caulder helped to plan the lettering and wording for the memorial, and spent time on the phone with the stonemason sorting out the details.
The efforts resulted in the landscaped site with a stone memorial in the center dedicating it to the county’s veterans.
Parker’s husband, Ed, opened the ceremony, and the Rev. Eddie Mayes gave an invocation before the JROTC cadets did the presentation of colors. Sherman Cash led the Pledge of Allegiance and Sam Standridge sang the national anthem and, later, “More Than a Name on a Wall.”
Several individuals spoke, including Kelly Gonyar, director of volunteer services of Hospice of Anson and Union County, and Mayor Bill Thacker, who thanked all involved for putting the project together.
Judy Cox, secretary of the Veterans Council, accepted a flag presented by Woodmen of the World.
Special tributes were also made. Diane Truman recognized her father, the late Jake Hannah, a veteran.
Hannah served in World War II and was a prisoner of war for 14 months after his plane was shot down. ‘
Truman said that when she was younger, she knew that Hannah had served in the military, but had no idea he’d been a prisoner until she heard him tell someone else. She didn’t know he’d meant during the war.
“I worried about what he’d done that he went to prison and asked my mom, who explained that he was a prisoner of war in a German camp,” Truman said, adding that her father didn’t discuss the war much until he was older. “I didn’t know I’d lived with a hero all those years, or why he’d hear something and jump.”
The veterans council was very important to her father, though he didn’t live to see it completed.
“When he heard of the memorial, he started coming up with ideas to raise funds,” Truman said. “He said maybe Mayor Thacker could deputize him to use a radar gun and catch speeders on Morven Road (to come up with the money).”
Truman also recognized Parker’s efforts in bringing the project to fruition.
“She’s a gem,” she said.
James Bennett, commander of AMVETS Post 316 in Rockingham, recognized John Harris, the county’s last living Buffalo Solider from World War II and a member of the county’s Veterans of Foreign Wars.
The Buffalo Soldiers were an all-black unit originally formed in 1866 to fight Native Americans. The tradition carried on with the 92nd Division, an African-American unit also known as the Buffalo Division, which fought in Italy during World War II.
Cindy Lisenby also brought a photo of her late husband, who would have celebrated his 84th birthday this year.
Lacy Shepherd, a member of AMVETS Post 316 in Rockingham, was the special speaker.
“Every community needs something to lean on and stand on,” he said. The memorial will offer that, he added, asking the crowd to consider donating to the Veterans Council. He said he recently visited the legislature in Raleigh and is hopeful about the bills he has seen coming through that he believes will benefit veterans and National Guard members if passed.
Lee and Tony Curlee unveiled the memorial for the crowd, followed by a 21-gun salute by AMVETS Post 316.
Russell Scarborough thanked contributors before ending the service with a benediction, thanking God for the veterans.
“It’s a rough time in the U.S. with ISIS and terrorism for veterans to have to deal with,” he said. “Put your arms around them and give them a hedge of protection so they can come back to their families and enjoy the benefits of being a veteran.”
Parker was happy to see the memorial finally completed, saying that it was “a vision for a lot of veterans.”
“I think it’s an asset to our county, and you know there are people that go around to different counties viewing different memorials, and I think we’ll have people coming to our town to view that one,” she said.
The memorial is located near the picnic shelter in Wadesboro City Park.
Reach reporter Imari Scarbrough at 704-994-5471 and follow her on Twitter @ImariScarbrough.