Visitors take a walk of pride
“See your name, Bill? It’s right up there,” the lady said to the aged gentleman as they paused to look at a brick in the Carter County Veterans Wall of Honor. The couple was among a half-dozen or so persons checking out the names on the wall on a sunny weekday evening.
From time to time, the lady would point out another name on the serpentine walls — perhaps a friend, a neighbor, or relative, or it could have been just someone they both knew. Regardless, it was a walk of pride for the visitors to the wall.
Probably no greater honor could come to “Bill” than to have his name inscribed on a granite plaque and placed on a wall with the names of hundreds of other veterans, who either live or have lived in Carter County. The wall honors both the living and dead, and those who served in all branches of the military.
“Bill” is just one of many veterans whose names are listed on the wall.
The lady with Bill proudly told another couple visiting the wall that Bill’s brick was a gift from his daughter.
There are a lot of memories that a name evokes, and it’s kind of neat to stand back and watch as they hunt the brick with their name on it.
Across the street at the War Memorial, a lady sat on a bench in front of the large granite stones that have the names of Carter County’s war dead inscribed on them. She sat in silence for several minutes before rising and walking over to the Vietnam War Memorial and with her finger traced a name etched on the monument. She then walked away as quietly as she came.
Some who visit the War Memorial shed tears as they pause and read the names of the war dead. Among the names are fallen soldiers and sailors from World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm and Enduring Freedom. Some are buried on foreign soil, some at sea, and some – only God knows where they are buried.
But the day the lady and “Bill” eyed his brick in the Wall of Honor, they both smiled. He was one of those who came home.
There is something special and lasting about seeing a name on the brick wall. It’s because the contributions of the men and women whose names are inscribed on the wall are special and lasting.
There are 5,476 names on the Wall of Honor — some you will recognize, others you will not.
They include the names of fathers and sons, husbands, brothers, sisters, cousins and neighbors. In one row on the wall are the names of my deceased brother, Raymond, and his three sons, Timothy, Michael and Robin, all who served in the military. In another row are the names of the Fenner brothers — Samuel Clyde, David, James, Paul, Harold Gene, Robert D. and William G., and a sister, Virginia G. David, the youngest, is a physician in Elizabethton. Among them, they served in all four branches of the military — Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines.
Another set of brothers on the wall includes Douglas, Porter, Lloyd K., Robin and Roger Forbes.
Also among the names are those of former Judge Arden Hill and his first wife, Voretta Hill. He served in the Air Force, and she in the Navy.
The list goes on and on.
You are sure to know many of the names on the wall. Many are World War II veterans, others served in Korea and Vietnam, and many others served during peacetime. Some were wounded in battle and have carried their battle scars for a lifetime. Others were prisoners of war and took pride in sharing their stories with school children.
There are a lot of memories hiding behind the names on the Wall of Honor. There’s a story behind every name engraved on the bricks — some of those stories we will never know.
A stroll along the Wall of Honor is like a stroll through time. There are even a few names of Civil War soldiers on the wall, as well as a few from the Revolutionary War.
It doesn’t really matter the war or the branch of service. What really matters is that the names of the men and women inscribed on the wall have helped preserve America’s freedom. All Americans are indebted to them.