A Waynedale veterans group celebrated the recent Veterans’ Day with a powerful memorial to service people lost in the line of duty.
In celebration of Veterans’ Day, the American Legion Post 241 put on display its “Honor the Fallen Wall,” showing hundreds of pictures of the myriad of servicemen and servicewomen lost in the line of duty since Sept. 11, 2001.
The “wall” consisted of several tall panels placed around the Post’s backroom, on which large photos of those lost were shown. The public – and especially the veterans’ loved ones – were allowed to tour the wall, and place notes on the pictures in remembrance.
The event was open to the public, and any and all veterans, according to past Post Commander, David Miller.
“You don’t have to be a Legion member to come, but, if you’re a veteran, you’re a veteran. And that’s pretty important to us,” Miller said.
When the Post, located at 7605 Bluffton Road, offered the same event last year, more than 1,000 people toured it, according to Miller. This year, the display began on the Thursday before Veterans’ Day, November 8, and continued through the weekend, up to and including the holiday, which occurred on Sunday, November 11. According to Miller, when a “Gold Star Family” (those who’ve lost loved ones in action) came to see the photos, the rest of the crowd was cleared out to allow privacy for their mourning.
On Thursday, November 8, the Post invited more than 80 members of the Wayne High School JROTC to come and tour the wall. “When these young people see these pictures,” Miller said, “it quickly becomes very personal.” While folks toured the wall, patriotic music played softly in the background.
On Saturday November 10, the Post hosted a Paddle-Auction Fundraiser to raise money for the display, and the Post in general. Several local groups and businesses donated items to be auctioned, including Rudy’s Cigars, Red Lobster, Old Smokey’s Whisky in Tennessee, Partners First, All-State Insurance, and Sweetwater Sound, who offered up a guitar and a remote-controlled, rideable cooler with an American Legion logo emblazoned on its side.
Also in town to see the display were two officials from the national Legion organization. Jim and Vickie Koutz. Jim is the Past National Commander of the Legion (from 2012 to 2013), and Vickie is President of the Legion Auxiliary, which is the Legion’s women’s group.
“We’d already seen this display in Indianapolis in April,” Koutz said, “but, of course, we wanted to see it again.”
For Jim Koutz, a U.S. Army veteran, the wall was very personal. A friend whom he had gone through basic training with in 1969, Lonnie Weisheit, was one of those lost, he said.
Miller believes that was, indeed, the entire point of the Legion’s display.
“When you take a look at this,” Miller said, “and the Post-It notes and private messages that the families stick on their loved one’s pictures, his is their father or mother who they never got to have that last conversation with, it is definitely humbling.”