ELIZABETHTON — It has taken more than a decade, but the third and final phase of the Elizabethton/Carter County Veterans Walk of Honor will complete the work that began with the Elizabethton/Carter County Veterans War Memorial.
The memorial includes the name of every Carter Countian who was killed in combat in World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm and Enduring Freedom.
The Walk of Honor includes the names and branch of service of Carter Countians who served in the military. It was built in three phases and currently holds the names of 5,476 veterans. There are also 149 blank granite bricks that can be inscribed with the names of future Carter County veterans.
There is also a fourth panel that can facilitate 225 more inscribed granite bricks in the future.
Also at the Walk of Honor the flags of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, the POW/MIA flag and the American flags fly in formation.
“There is not another one like it in the country,” said Deacon Bowers, chairman of the committee that has overseen the decade of construction.
The memorial and walk of honor is located in the center of downtown Elizabethton and it receives frequent visitors who stop in the peaceful spot.
The first phase, bearing the names of 3,600 names on black granite inscribed in silver, was completed in 2007. The second phase, with 1,350 names was completed in 2009. The third phase will be dedicated today. It contains 526 names.
Committee member Rusty Crowe will deliver the dedicatory address.
The memorial has been designed to honor all veterans of the 20th and 21st centuries, but it started out as something much smaller and less inclusive.
The monument to remember all Carter County veterans was begun by veterans around 1999 who wanted to memorialize those who served in “the forgotten war,” the Korean War.
Bowers said five Koran War veterans started working on an effort to create a Korean War monument in Carter County. The group consisted of Bowers, Roy Merryman, Paul Pless, Harry “Fuzz” Mottern and Phil Ellis.
Elizabethton Mayor Pro Tem Sam Shipley said he was a new member of the City Council in 1999 or 2000 when he was invited to attend one of the meetings to establish the monument honoring Korean War veterans.
Shipley said the group was having difficulty finding a suitable location for the marker.
Shipley, a Vietnam War veteran, said “after much discussion about such a project and a healthy exchange of ideas, we chose a path that would include more veterans, more branches of the service and our military involvement in wars starting with World War I. With this new direction, we were able to gather interest and support from the general public.”
Eventually, the ideas formed into separate monuments of black granite for each of the nation’s major wars of the 20th and 21st centuries. Each monument would contain the names of all the Carter Countians killed in action in that war. The names are inscribed in gold
The Elizabethton/Carter County Veterans War Memorial Committee was established. The new committee included two of the original five Korean War veterans. Bowers was named chairman of the new committee and Merryman was named vice chairman. Another Korean War veteran, David Ornduff was named secretary treasurer and information officer. Other members were Sen. Rusty Crowe, then Representative Ralph Cole, Bob Robinson, Jeanette Hitchcock, Sara Sellers and Shipley. The membership has remained the same throughout the decade of work.
The committee enlisted the services of the Elizabethton architectural firm of Reedy and Sykes to design the memorial and walk of honor. The location was donated by the city. The labor was provided by the state prisoners from the Carter County Annex of the Northeast Correctional Center.
Committee members sought donations from many local businesses to fund the project.
The memorial was completed in 2002 to great acclaim from the community.
The committee then went to work on the walk of honor, which was built in three stages as bricks were purchased to carry the names of a Carter County veteran.
So the service that nearly 6,000 Carter Countians gave to their country will be remembered, thanks in part to five veterans of the forgotten war and to the hard work of a hard working and productive committee that labored for over a decade.